“Senator Evan Bayh”:http://bayh.senate.gov/index1.htmlhttp://bayh.senate.gov/index1.html, D-Ind., is taking on the video game industry. Specifically, he plans to introduce legislation next year to legally enforce the current video games rating system by disallowing children under the age of 17 from purchasing games intended for adults. He cites research that shows that increased exposure to violent games results in higher behavior and social problems, such as anger, violence, and desensitization.
Douglas Lowenstein is the president of the “Entertainment Software Association”:http://www.theesa.com/, and he responds by stating that it is the parents’ responsibility to limit or block their children from playing certain games. It is the role of the parents to monitor and control these things for their own children, rather than that of the government or the video game industry.
The trouble here is that the research on the effects of violent video games on children is inconclusive. Part of this is due to the fact that there is relatively little research in existence on the subject. Another part is due to mixed population samples across studies and differing approaches to the research. Depending on where researchers glean their sample populations, it is all too easy to unintentionally bias their experiments. It would be relatively easy to link aggressive behavior in a group of “problem children” to their video game habits, and it would be relatively easy to find no link between aggressive behavior and video games in a group of “model children.” Additionally, there iare potentially dozens of confounding factors that must be taken into account in each study, factors that could contribute to problem behavior. If such factors are not considered, the results of the research, however supportive or refutative (to coin a word), are fundamentally flawed.
There are certainly examples of children who have grown up playing violent video games who are model citizens, well-adjusted, level-headed, reasonable, rational adults. Conversely, there are hardened criminals whose history with violent video games contributed to their anti-social behavior (though to what extent exactly is almost impossible to determine). Ultimately, I agree with Mr. Lowenstein that it is up to the parents to monitor and guide their children appropriately. Much as I respect Sen. Bayh’s intent, more government involvement in our daily lives is not really what we need. What we need are parents who are more willing to get involved in their children’s lives, who are willing to actually take on the mantle of mentor, teacher, and disciplinarian, and who are willing to take the time and make the sacrifice to teach their children proper values and critical thinking skills. Maybe what we really need are more parenting classes, but then again those really only teach the skills. We we _really_ need is a better way to get parents interested in their kids’ lives again.