New UK watchdog to make websites carry ‘cinema-style’ age certificates

New watchdog to make websites carry ‘cinema-style’ age certificates | Mail Online: “New watchdog to make websites carry ‘cinema-style’ age certificates

By Kirsty Walker, Last updated at 10:00 PM on 29th September 2008”

Video-sharing websites – such as YouTube – could be forced to carry cinema-style guidance ratings, it has emerged.

Ministers are planning to introduce tough new rules to make websites carry age certificates and warning signs on films featuring sex, violence or strong language.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said that tougher content guidance would help parents monitor their children’s internet use.

The move is in response to growing fears about the internet’s ‘dark side’. An influential group of MPs recently warned that many social networking and video-sharing websites contain material unsuitable for children.

Mr Burnham said he wanted online content to meet the same standards required for television and the cinema. At the moment, there is no overall regulation of the internet.

The Culture Secretary said video clips may soon have to carry ratings such as the ‘U’, ‘PG’, ’12’ and ’18’ ones used by cinemas.

Mr Burnham pointed to the example of the BBC iplayer which carries content warnings on programmes screened after the 9pm watershed and allows parents to turn on a ‘parental guidance lock’ to stop youngsters accessing inappropriate material.

He said: ‘With the 9pm watershed, parents had complete clarity about the content. But with the internet, parents are ensure about what is appropriate and what isn’t.

‘We have to start talking more seriously about standards and regulation on the internet.

‘I don’t think it is impossible that before you download something there is a symbol or wording which tells you what’s in that content. If you have a clip that is downloaded a million times then that is akin to broadcasting.

‘It doesn’t seem over-burdensome for these to be regulated.’

His comments were backed by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who said she had been ‘shocked’ at some of the material viewed by her sons.

She added: ‘I do think it’s important that parents of young children are clear, just as they are when going to see a film at the cinema, about what’s appropriate and what isn’t appropriate.’

Earlier this year, MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee expressed their anger that the operators of sites such as YouTube did not routinely screen clips posted on them by the public.

Earlier this month, YouTube – the world’s largest videosharing website – took down 30 videos that glorified gangs and gang violence. Some of the videos had been on the site for more than 18 months.

The site was also heavily criticised early this year when it emerged that a video of an alleged gang-rape was viewed 600 times before being removed.

YouTube is the fourth most popular website among British children. It is visited every month by 590,000 children aged under 11, and a further million children aged 12 to 17.

A spokesman for YouTube said that children under the age of 13 are not allowed to register on the site and more explicit material is limited to those aged 18 and upwards.

He added that the vast majority of material was harmless and that most explicit material is removed within an hour of it being posted on the site.

However, he acknowledged that youngsters can simply lie about their age when they register or set up a new user profile.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has launched the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) – an organisation designed to protect children online.

It will report directly to the PM, and will be tasked with tackling issues like online bullying and violent video games.

The council was set up in response to a report by Dr Tanya Byron into how children and parents can get the most from new technology while protecting youngsters from inappropriate or harmful material.

Mr Brown said: ‘This revolution in communications is here to stay.

‘Some people call the internet a slanging match without an umpire. The challenge for us is to make sure young people can use the internet safely and do so with the minimum of restrictions but the maximum of opportunities.’

He added: ‘The internet provides our children with a world of entertainment, of opportunity and knowledge, a world that is quite literally at their fingertips, just the click of a mouse away.

‘But just as we would not allow them to go out unsupervised in playgrounds or in youth clubs or in swimming pools, so we must put in place the measures we need to keep our children safe online.’

Dr Byron said: ‘Every parent will know that video games and the internet are a part of childhood like never before. This is extremely positive, giving kids the opportunities to learn, to have fun and communicate in ways that previous generations could only dream of.

‘But it can also present a huge challenge to parents and other adults involved in the welfare of children.

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