Violent games: "buck stops with parents"

Reason prevails in BBC radio debate.

Parents must take responsibility for keeping violent content away from children - that was the message this morning from Mothers Against Violence in a BBC Radio Leeds debate on violent videogames.

A spokesperson for the organisation, whose aim is to "promote the eradication of violence and to relieve the victims of the effects of violence within the community", told the station: "I'm not directly blaming games, I'm blaming parents," adding: "If someone doesn't do something where does it stop?"

Grand Theft Auto was the inevitable focal point of the discussion - between the parent, presenters and a games journalists - with the handheld versions of the series produced locally at Rockstar Leeds.

On GTA, the mother said: "Why is it okay to beat up a prostitute, but not okay to pick up a normal civilian?" In fact, GTA features the ability to pick up and drive around 'normal civilians'.

A broader point made was that many parents, despite age-ratings on packaging, don't pay attention to the games their children are playing, not are they aware of the negative effects they could have.

The Mothers Against Violence spokesperson called on other mothers to help educate parents on the issue, stating: "It just takes one of us to spread the word, to plant the seed." It's about "taking the time to study what games are all about," she added, expressing fears that violent games were "desensitising" children who are "becoming complacent and think they're invincible".

Rockstar issued a statement to BBC Radio Leeds, stating it "submits every game to the appropriate ratings body", adding that the GTA series is "18-rated and is entertainment clearly aimed at an adult audience".

Videogames in the UK are currently age-rated by the BBFC and PEGI, with the latter system set to be adopted as the sole standard. Part of the controversial Digital Economy Bill - which receives its third reading in UK parliament today - the system is expected to pass into law before next months general election.

The UK games industry has said it will fund a parental awareness campaign on the new ratings.

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