- 27 Mar 08, 15:15 GMT
I blame the parents. That's the real conclusion of the Byron review. She says we lack confidence and awareness when it comes to the digital world.
We plonk our children down in front of the internet as if it's the television when it's more like opening the door and letting them play in the road unsupervised. We don't take the trouble to understand the games rating system, and we let our ten-year-olds play Halo 3 without a murmur.
Guilty? Well as a technology correspondent who also happens to be the father of two mad keen gamers and web users - aged 17 and nine - I thought I was in the clear. I knew what they were up to online and I understood what kind of games they were playing. But now I'm not so sure. I've realised that I've only just got to grips with games classification and I'm pretty ignorant about where my sons are surfing.
For some years the sound of warfare has echoed down our stairs from a teenager's bedroom, home to a couple of consoles and a PC. I've given up monitoring closely what he plays or where he goes online. I suppose the key moment was when he stopped using the household computer in the living room - where we could watch what was going on - and got his own in his room when he was 15. Too early to allow unfettered access? Well I suppose it's a question of trust - and we thought our son was pretty sensible. He is impatient with the idea that he and his fellow gamers can't distinguish between virtual warfare and the real thing - and I think he has a point.
But what about the nine-year-old? He is mad keen on video games and likes to lean over his brother's shoulder to watch him playing. I quizzed him about violent games (Halo 3 arrived in the house a few weeks ago) over the breakfast table this morning. "I don't play them," he said - he's still at the Super Mario Phase. "And Adam won't let me watch him playing them."
So on the gaming front I'm lucky enough to have a responsible teenager policing his younger brother. But what about the internet? We haven't put filtering software on the computer nine year old Rufus uses, as he only spends time on neopets or other innocuous sites. "Oh, and I like YouTube," he revealed to me this morning. Alarm bells began to ring. At today's press conference Dr Tanya Byron revealed that she had asked the Schools and Culture Secretaries whether they knew what the age limit was for watching YouTube. They didn't know - and neither did I. It is 13. Rufus says he only watches "funny videos about cats and dogs", but we all know that there is plenty of material on YouTube that you wouldn't want any child to see.
Now I've just been hunting for that age restriction on the site - and it is buried a long way down. So businesses like YouTube and the social networking sites need to give far better and clearer guidance. But I think Tanya Byron is right to emphasise the need for parents to get their act together. We may think we are up to speed with technology - but our children are often ahead of the game. It's up to us to keep up.
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