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UK recommends age checks within games to protect children

"With a reasonable degree of certainty."

Games should identify if a user is under 18 "with a reasonable degree of certainty" and ensure their experience is not detrimental to their well-being, a new report by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office has stated.

This should include encouragement to take regular breaks from extended play "without feeling pressurised to continue playing or becoming fearful of missing out", the ICO continued.

While the report only offers recommendations, they are being made as part of the UK's Children's Code, which explains how the UK's General Data Protection Regulation (the dreaded GDPR) should be applied to digital services.

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Other recommendations include behavioural profiling for marketing being switched off by default, plus limits to the amount of sponsored content and advertising in any community server accessible from within the game.

Still, it is unclear how many of these recommendations can realistically be applied - or whose job it is to ensure it.

Is it on EA to check if someone playing FIFA is under the age of 18, and if so, adjust the gameplay experience accordingly? Or Sony, if that child is using a PlayStation?

And what methods could be used to successfully determine a user's age?

On this, the ICO simply states that game companies should "assess and document how you will identify if UK players are under 18 and work out their actual ages with an appropriate level of certainty.

"Investigate potential age assurance solutions to provide greater levels of certainty," the ICO continues, "linking back to risk assessments done at the design stage. You should implement your identified age assurance solution across all games, stores or platforms as quickly as possible."

Other recommendations extend to game design, and suggest "checkpoints, automatic periodic saving of progress, or natural breaks in play between game matches" for younger users.

UK figures from 2019 quoted in today's announcement state that 93 percent of children play video games, with the average amount played at around three hours per day.

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