Video games are a widely debated topic in the present world. For many years there have been both positive and negative reactions to video games. Positively, they bring joy, relaxation and social interaction to many people. Negatively, the video games are often criticized for many reasons. Many debates argue that video games are becoming more violent and sexually explicit than in the past. Many people who oppose violent video games say that minors are getting their hands on these inappropriate games. The following question comes to mind, "If these games are so inappropriate and maturely rated, how are these minors getting their hands on them?" Ultimately this means that the parents are responsible for their children's access to these inappropriate games.
The video game industry is doing their job to help parents determine which video games are appropriate. In 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board was created. This board was created to rate video games and computer software for the appropriate age groups. The age groups are Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone ten and up, Teen, Mature and Adults Only. Mature means anyone ages 17 and up, and many of these violent games fall into this category. This rating system has been in place for years, and in recent years it has been rigorously enforced. Sting operations , like for tobacco and liquor, are preformed on stores to make sure that they are in compliance with the rating system. The responsibility falls to parents of the children. So are violent children the result of bad parenting? Are the parents not paying attention to what their children are playing, or are parents just using video games as a scapegoat for their children's problems. Parents should know the contents of the games before buying them for their children. For example a Northern Illinois University Student named Mike told the following story: "When I bought Grand Theft Auto: San Andres, the clerk at Wal-Mart told my mother about the contents of the game and she kindly informed the clerk she understood and she had talked with me that the game was fantasy and what you do in the game stays in the game." Another example when my mother bought me Golden Eye, a James Bond game, when I was twelve years old. She told me that anything I did in the game was not real and that what I did in the game should stay in the game. This is an example of what a parent should do in regards to buying video games for their children.
The government is trying to do their part too by enforcing the sale of these video games according the rating system that was established by the video game industry. Stores will be fined if they are found to be selling Mature rated video games to children under 17. According to www.constitutioncenter.org "Anyone who sells or rents violent or explicit video games to minors could face a criminal misdemeanor conviction that carries up to a $5,000 dollar fine and 6-12 months in jail." The penalty for selling tobacco to a minor is a maximum of one thousand dollars, and no jail time. So are violent video games worse than cigarettes or other tobacco products? Parents need to realize that the government thinks so. Retail establishments are following through on their end of the deal. When I was of legal age to purchase an M rated video game I was carded instantly. So this tells me that if kids these days are getting their hands on theses explicit video games their parents are buying the video games for them, and these are the same parents that are saying the video games have made their children violent.
Many government agencies have conducted studies involving several media type including video games. In a report entitled "Safe School Initiative Final Report" by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Secret Service, only 12% of those involved with school shootings were attracted to violent video games, while 24% read violent books and 27% were attracted to violent movies. Parents need to be aware of these statistics when monitoring their children's videogame choices and habits, again, parental responsibility is in the picture.
The video game industry and government agencies offer help to parents regarding video game information. Parents must also be proactive in monitoring the video games their children play. Parents should consult sources to see the content of the games before purchasing them. Many websites offer services ranging from game play video clips and screen shots to reviews by other parents. Video clips and screen shots are actual pictures and videos taken from the video game. These can be very helpful for parental decision-making; it is like a preview of what their children will see. Another way a parent can preview a potential game purchase is by using a parental review website such as gamerdad.com and parentstv.org. When parents access these websites they will find many useful features such as reviews by parents who already purchased the game, and ratings that the parents feel is appropriate for the game as opposed to the industry rating. Another thing that a parent can do is to play the game with their children and talk with them about fantasy and reality that like what Mike's mother did with him.
According to Patrick Mansell, of chuckhawks.com, he quotes Dan Hus saying that parents who let children play games that are not suitable for the age group of the child, and parents that fail to teach their children any sense of responsibility or the difference between fantasy and reality are the to blame, not the video game industry. Mansell recalls a news story where two teenage boys, ages 13 and 16, fired rifles at motorists on a busy highway in Tennessee killing one person and wounding another. Police questioned the teenagers about the incident. The teenagers responded that they were "inspired" by the Grand Theft Auto video game series. He later reveals that the family of the victim was suing the video game company that made grand theft auto as well the killer's parents. The parents of the teenagers are to be responsible in this situation not only for letting the teenagers play a game that is not suitable for them, but also for lack of supervision with a firearm. President Doug Lowenstein of the Entertainment Software Association said: "The notion that they don't know right from wrong, that they don't know that picking up a weapon and shooting people is morally wrong and that somehow 'a video game made me do it' is just ridiculous." This is why the parents need to be involved. Mansell also states that parents would never let their children watch sexually explicit material, however they let their children play violent video games practically every day.
So why is this such a controversial topic? The solution is not a hard one; parents need to talk to their kids about violence, about the difference between fantasy and reality, and the need to enforce the standards the government and the video game industry recommends. With all the precautions that the government has taken to prevent these inappropriate games from landing in the hands of children, they still are ending up there. I think the government has done all that it can; now the ultimate responsibility falls to the parents.