=Today’s youth live in a time where video games are a fixture of entertainment. Video game consoles are found in almost every home, including a child’s bedroom. I believe that the portrayal of violence in video games is not the reason for the increase of violent acts committed by and against youth. Parents and the government should understand it is not the fault of the game itself. Modern parents should be engaged in the messages their children are receiving from video games and the images they are allowing them to witness. Creating more laws and legislations surrounding the sale and content of video games will not provide the protection that parents think they will. I believe that parents who refuse to engage in the content their children are exposed to must educate themselves actively and be aware of what their children are observing when they play video games.
They need to actively seek out information about the game and what types of content it contains before their children start to play. Parents should not solely rely on the rating provided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), an independent board that provides ratings to video games. Games with the rating of Everyone, or “E”, contain mild violence. According to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association where 55 video games were played, “27 games (49%) depicted deaths from violence” (Thompson and Haninger). Parents who do not take the time to learn about a game first risk their children killing in the game that is rated for “Everyone”. Children need their parents to talk with them and explain that what they are seeing is not real and that violence like that is not appropriate behavior. A study by the American Psychological Association found that game players self-reported that “game playing
was found to elicit more fear than anger, depressed feeling, or pleasant relaxation, and respectively; however it elicited more joy than fear” (Ravaja, Saari and Turpeinen). Desire to commit violence was not one of them.
Parents also need to set clear boundaries on what is appropriate and what is not for their children, based on their own beliefs. The violence portrayed in video games exists without a call to action. The games do not command players to go outside of the game and commit the same acts. It is also not the duty of lawmakers to limit accessibility or ban content all together because they fear that the violence could incite an incident. The British Medical Journal originally published findings from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study. The study was conducted over 10 years and included more than 11,000 children. It “did not find associations between electronic games use and conduct problems, which could reflect the lower exposure to games and/or greater parental restrictions on age-appropriate content for games” (Parkes, Sweeting and Wright).
Parents should determine what is right for their children and what is not. The boundaries of every family are different and need to be enforced by the parents. The creators and retailers of video games often become the scapegoat for lawmakers and government officials when a violent act occurs that involves or is perpetrated by youth. Parents rely on their legislators to take up their causes and seek out laws that will promote their cause. Regulating video games on their behalf is one of those causes. Legislative bodies across the country are looking for ways to prevent incidences of violence, especially gun violence like what occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The state of New Jersey outlined a plan last year that included measures to limit and restrict how retailers merchandise games in retail outlets and would require parental consent for kids to purchase games rated “Mature” or “Adults Only” (Friedman).
The state of Massachusetts also considered legislation that would assemble a group to “investigate the influence of violent video games and to find if there is a connection with real world violence” (GamePolitics Staff). However, these, and other laws being debated across the country, face a significant legal road block. Video game retailers already take precautions and preventative measures to keep certain games from being purchased by children and further regulation on a legal level is not needed. The Supreme Court heard Brown v. EMA, a case against California’s laws that restricted the sale of certain games to teenagers based on state’s determination that they were violent. The basis of the case came down to a First Amendment issue because California’s specifically singled out video games and no other form of media.
The Court struck down California’s law and ruled “the games, like books and movies, are protected under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. The Supreme Court also said it found no convincing link between the games and real world violence” (Friedman). Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively” (Friedman). Regulation by the government is a clear-cut defense for parents who battle with their kids about certain games being purchased and played. It is easier to tell a child that they cannot have something because someone else restricts it and not because the parent forbids it. It means the child is not upset with the parent and diverts their displeasure.
Parents do not have to be the “bad guy” because a law takes care of that for them. I have personally witnessed parents telling kids that they cannot purchase a particular game because it is too graphic or not for their age. Most of the children are less than pleased by the response and show it. I imagine most parents want to avoid that reaction from their child in a store. Creating legislation that the Supreme Court found infringes on the collective’s First Amendment rights or circumventing the current self-regulation of the video game retailers is not the solution. Today’s parents should stop seeking a solution for interference outside of their own decisions as a parent by increasing legislation on games.
Parents to the next generation are severely taxed by the demands of day to day life. The one item that they cannot be relaxed about is the entertain they choose for their children. Buying a video game console and unleashing a child into the world of gaming is almost a rite of passage for parents, especially parents that grew up playing Super Mario Bros. It is unwise to do so without rules, boundaries, and some due diligence on their part. They should be educating themselves on the games and need to be reviewing game content information available from web sites like IGN.com.
Parents should be supervising their kids playing the games that they may not be familiar with yet many do not. They should also be looking at what they can control in their own home, including utilizing parental control settings on the consoles themselves and restricting online and downloadable content. Parents should not lean on lawmakers to establish those confines for them nor does not lie in society’s hands. The ultimate responsibility lies with parents who are willing to unplug what video game content they do not want their child to play.
Friedman, Matt. “Game over? Christie’s plan to restrict video games would likely be overturned, experts say.” 24 April 2013. NJ.com. Web. 3 March 2014.
GamePolitics Staff. Massachusetts State Senator Proposes Study on Violent Video Games. 14 November 2013. Web. 3 March 2014.
Parkes, Alison, et al. “Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study.” British Medical Journal (2013). Web.
Ravaja, Niklas, et al. “The Psychophysiology of James Bond: Phasic Emotional Responses to Violent Video Game Events.” American Psychological Association (2008): Vol. 8, No. 1, 114-120.
Thompson, ScD, Kimberly M. and Kevin Haninger. “Violence in E-Rated Video Games.” Journal of the American Medical Association (2001). Web.