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Research reveals Australian video games have poor warning standards

Posted: Friday 15 December 2017

Australian video games do not contain adequate classifications or warnings on them, which could lead to unsuitable viewing by some children, according to new research by a Federation University Australia student. 

Julie Ross from Ballarat said the Australian video classification standards need to be reviewed and improved.

“There is a danger that if the classification does not warn of all classifiable elements, children could be exposed to content that may be deemed inappropriate,” Dr Ross said.

“Research into video game classification in the USA shows that the classification does not always warn of all classifiable elements, and to date there has been no comparable research in Australia.”

Dr Ross’s PhD research explored whether video game classification in Australia carried enough information for parents to make informed game choices for their child.

“My research concluded that parents were often unable to determine if a video game was appropriate for their child or not,” Dr Ross said.

“Firstly, a content analysis examined the classification information given to games in Australia and compared this to the same game classified overseas.

“Results showed that video games in Australia provide less warnings about classifiable elements than their international counterparts, and that Australian children 15 years of age are legally allowed to play some games that are rated for adults overseas.”

The results from this analysis were used to inform a survey exploring the role that classification plays in parental game choices.

“Australian parents of school-aged children were surveyed to see if they would make the same game choices when provided with more classification information,” Dr Ross said.

“Participants were presented with this information in three steps, and were asked to denote their game choice at each step.

“The first step presented Australian classification information, the second step presented international classification, and the third step presented the description awarded to the game by the ESRB (USA ratings system).

“Results showed that when presented with the classification information awarded to the same game overseas, a substantial number of parents made different decisions about the suitability of some games for their child,” Dr Ross said.

“This suggests that video game classification in Australia does not consistently provide enough information for parents to make informed game choices.”

The research by Dr Ross identified barriers to the uptake and understanding of video game classification.

It also describes steps which can be taken to initiate development of a framework to raise awareness and deliver education to Australian parents about how video games can form a safe part of their child’s lives.

Dr Ross was awarded a PhD for her research at the recent graduation ceremony at the Mt Helen Campus.

Contact Matthew Freeman
Senior Advisor, Media and Government Relations
03 5327 9510; 0408 519 674