Parents Need to be Gatekeepers on Violent Video Games Says Gallup Poll

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The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week on a California law that could strip First Amendment protection from video games. If that happens it could easily start to erode First Amendment rights on all manner of creative works. We here at GDN believe in the game ratings systems and believe that parents need to take an active role and interest in what their children are doing, purchasing and playing.

Parents should be most responsible for determining whether minors can buy or rent violent video games, according to a new, nationwide survey conducted for the nonpartisan First Amendment Center.

The California law prohibits the sale or rental to anyone under the age of 18 of games that portray the fictional "killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting of an image of a human being."

"The survey results show a clear majority of Americans see parents having the most responsibility for deciding whether violent video games ought to be purchased or rented by children, but a smaller majority also approve a government ban," said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the first Amendment Center.

The survey, conducted Oct. 29-30 by Gallup, asked how much responsibility parents, video-game manufacturers, government or retail or online stores, should have for deciding whether children may buy or rent such games. The survey found:

  • 86% said parents should have a "great deal" of responsibility, the highest result on the question, with just 4% saying they have no responsibility.
  • 43% said video-game manufacturers and retail or online stores should have a "great deal" of responsibility, with less than 20% saying the groups should have no responsibility.
  • 28% said government should have a "great deal" of responsibility, with 26% saying no responsibility.

Still, respondents by a 2-1 margin would permit laws such as California’s ban on sale or rentals to minors: 68% said government should be able to prevent sales or rentals of violent games to children under age 18; 31% said it should not, with 2% undecided.

"In recent decades, adults concerned about the impact of comic books, popular music and movies on children have pressed for government control of content, but voluntary industry codes and parental monitoring largely have worked," said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center. "Mom and Dad are still in the best position to keep inappropriate content out of the hands of kids."

Results of the survey are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 29-30, 2010, by Gallup on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,033 adults, age 18 or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit dial sampling. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Complete results of the survey and methodology are available on the First Amendment Center’s Web site, www.firstamendmentcenter.org

I don’t believe that the government can tell us what we can and cannot consume for entertainment just like it can’t do so for eating and drinking. I don’t think that government censorship is ever appropriate. What I do believe is that the same rules that are applied to literature, television and film should be applied to video games. They are all creative works aimed at entertainment and as such should all be protected as Free Speech.

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