It a case that has garnered national attention, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The law was originally adopted back in 2005 but never went into effect because a federal appeals court found that the state failed to show proof that violent video games are in any way harmful to kids.
Video games intended for mature players already carry warning labels, but lawmakers in California want to take things a step further. If the law is upheld, games that depict “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” would get a large number ’18’ stamped in bold print on the front of the package. Retailers who sold such games to minors would be in violation of the law and face a $1,000 fine per incident.
Needless to say, video game makers are not on board with this idea. In addition to free speech issues, they claim that the video game industry is perfectly capable of self-regulating. And besides, there is no data to back up claims that violent video games are even harmful to children, right?
Actually, they are right. A 2008 survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found that the major sellers of video games do a pretty good job of keeping ‘M’ rated games out of the hands of children. In addition, there has been no definitive proof that playing violent video games has any negative effect on kids.
Of course, that doesn’t mean violent games aren’t harmful. It just means it hasn’t been proved yet. As a parent, my gut tells me that violent video games are, at the very least, desensitizing. But according to MIT Professor Henry Jenkins, that is just one of the many video game myths.
While I am strict about how much and what kind of media my child is exposed to, not all parents are. A 2000 study found that most don’t place limits on how long their kids play video games and are unaware of what kind of games they are playing. Does that fact alone justify government involvement?
Image: Seth W./Flickr
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