UK kids buy their kicks online

A new survey by the Trading Standards Institute has revealed that 9 out of 10 online games retailers sold games with the 18 rating to minors. Top of the list were Rockstar titles GTA 4 and Manhunt 2. The youngest of the kids in the survey was only 12.

Brandon Cook, the institute’s lead officer for age-restricted sales said: “[Traders] have a responsibility to make sure they have methods in place to avoid breaking the law by making under-age sales. If traders cannot be sure the person they are selling to is over 18, then they should not be selling.” He also stated that the guilty retailers could face fines and up to 6 months in jail.

I think the emphasis in the last sentence is on the “could”, I can’t see anything happening as a result of this survey. I do agree that retailers should be more vigilant and it is bad that they don’t even make an attempt to check the age of their customers when selling age restricted products, but when I think about this I keep coming back to the parents.

I am the father of an 11 year old boy who is a gaming nut and is absolutely gagging to play my copy of GTA 4, which sits out in the open within easy reach, but I see it as my job to say “no”. Although I don’t agree with all age ratings on games they do serve as an adequate guide for parents who have no interest in games. I often let my son play games that have been rated “12” or in a few cases “15”, but this is only because I have played the game from start to finish and have decided, as his parent, that he has the maturity to handle it. GTA 4 really is not suitable for little kids, so I say “no” and he accepts that. He knows that if I ever caught him playing that game then he would not be able to touch the PS3 for flippin’ ages, probably until he was legally old enough to vote!

If this really is a problem then all we need to solve it is parents that take an interest in the lives of their own offspring. In my opinion any kid that buys a game online should be admired for their ingenuity and initiative, and then punished in a suitable way so they don’t do it again. The naughty step works wonders in my house.

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