Video Games: Unsafe for Kids?

Video Games: Unsafe for Kids?

According to parental advocacy group Common Sense Media, a whopping 72% of adults now support a ban on violent video games. These figures seem at striking odds with those presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which says that 82% of all games sold are for ages 17 and under, the average player is 35 years old anyways and that 64% of parents believe that games are a positive part of kids’ lives. So how to explain the discrepancy, and why we’re still dealing with the same fundamental stereotype – that violent games can have ill effects on viewers, and may turn kids into killers – decades after Death Race first got conservatives’ panties in a bunch?

This article from the International Business Times, entitled Influence of Violent Video Games Still Up for Debate, sums up the situation quite nicely. Part of the answer lies in the knowledge gap between generations, part with a lack of awareness, and part due to misinformation spread by critics of the medium. By and large, the biggest setback that still plagues the gaming industry is public perception that games are for kids, when in fact a much larger population of adults is in fact consuming these titles. Moreover, with only a small portion of titles released actually violent, let alone meant for mature audiences, it’s an even more distressing concern, underscoring the point that more public resources should be made available to make non-game-players aware as to the real facts behind the increasingly popular pastime.

With a Supreme Court case that threatens government legislation of the sale of certain games to minors, let’s hope that more gaming insiders and advocacy groups will speak up. While Common Sense’s figures are likely skewed, based on an older and more right-wing constituency (mind you, that’s just an educated guess), it brings up an important point. No matter how hard the game industry works to raise awareness, we could all be doing a better job of public education. Get out and spread the gospel – the future of the business (and, you know, all those budding teenage serial killers) depends on it.

About Scott Steinberg
Scott Steinberg is CEO of strategic consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global, and a noted keynote speaker and business expert. Hailed as a top tech expert and parenting guru by critics from USA Today to NPR, he’s also an on-air analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN.


  1. There is no good reason why games should become the new boogeyman for right-wing groups to use to attempt to limit free speech. Games have a perfectly understandable ratings system to allow parents to limit their kids exposure to violent gameplay–if they so choose.

    If concerned parents out there do not want to do the work it takes to control what their kids are exposed to, I for one do not favor needless laws passed to do their job for them.

    And for the record my kids have played violent games along with their dad for most of their lives. The work of parenting, for me, came not from enforcing ratings on their experience, but ensuring I was there alongside them to address their questions as they played, and ensure they always understood the difference between the fantasy of entertainment media and reality. In this regard, I don’t see why games should be treated any differently from television and movies.

    Every kid is different. No law will ever replace the benefit of a parent willing to share and discuss their experience, with games, or with life itself.

  2. Devil’s advocate here:
    If violent games (rated M) are not played by kids, then such a ruling would not affect sales of said games, would it? After all, after a certain rating, movie theaters will refuse access to younger public if they are alone.

  3. There is no effective argument for legislating that retailers and publishers assume the responsibility of parenting.

    Movie theatres are not legally required to bar entry. They do so voluntarily in compliance with MPAA recommendations. Similarly game retailers voluntarily enforce ESRB ratings recommendations.

    Laws bring about enforcement. A mechanism engineered to regulate behavior and dole out punishment for violations (and generate revenue for bankrupt state governments). I do not want such a mechanism applied to the spread of ideas in entertainment media.

    The first step down that slope leads to a slide. In this country we defend an artist’s right to release the content he chooses to. A free market, with self-regulating voluntary content guidelines, is enough to ensure parents are warned what kids may be exposed to.

    They may fail to monitor what their kids are exposed to, or they may choose to forgo the recommendations that are given. That is freedom. The foundation of this nation. I will not abandon it for the illusion of security, only to discover that murderers develop anyway… just as they did before video games or movies ever existed.

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