EU to study ways to keep violent video games from kids

Associated Press, 1/16/07

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) - European justice and interior ministers agreed Tuesday to look at ways to prevent the sale of violent video games to children across Europe amid worries that national controls are too lax.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told reporters at the end of two-day EU talks here that he and German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries ``encouraged member states to prevent, to ban violent video games.''

``The protection of children cannot have borders,'' Frattini said.

Zypries, whose country holds the EU presidency, said that before any EU-wide measures could be taken, an inventory of what national measures were already in place had to be conducted.

Most if not all EU governments have in place parental advisory rules and voluntary agreements with games makers and retailers to prevent the sale of violent or other adult games to those under 16.

Frattini said that more needed to be done, however.

``What we can do is to raise awareness about the sensitivity of the issue and also to increase and to encourage ... measures to be taken in a practical way by police authorities, particularly about checking the identity of the minors,'' Frattini said.

Zypries said an inventory of national bans and ratings already in place would be posted soon on an EU Web site where consumers and parents can verify whether the games are suitable for children.

Zypries added that Germany, on behalf of the EU, would consult with other countries, including the United States, Japan and Russia over better international coordination. She said the games that posed the greatest concern were made outside of Europe.

Luxembourg's Justice Minister Luc Frieden said the EU had to take action on the issue, and to ensure that minimum set of restrictions and standard ratings were in operation across the borderless 27-nation bloc.

``Access to children should be cut off,'' Frieden said. ``We have to ban some games.''

EU officials have called for action amid a recent spate of attacks by teenagers that authorities partially blame on violent games.

Frattini called on EU ministers to urge Internet companies, game makers and retailers to participate in voluntary self-regulation. He said the EU would soon hold a public debate with the gaming industry, software writers and Internet providers to discuss the matter.

Germany and Britain already have tough restrictions to prevent the sale of violent games to children, and Germany penalizes retailers who sell adult-rated games to minors.

Frattini wants all 27 EU member nations to adopt uniform labels with age restrictions and parental advisory warnings. However, EU officials have said it would be left to national authorities to decide on how tough the measures should be and to set the ratings.

The call to act on violent games targeted at children is being backed by Germany, which holds the EU presidency. Britain, Greece, Finland, Spain and France also back coordinated EU policy on the issue.

Frattini and German ministers are keen to take action after an 18-year-old went on a rampage in a German high school last November, shooting five people before committing suicide.

Authorities blamed his attack on the teen's love for violent computer games.