Bill would keep violent video games out of children's hands
It is no exaggeration to say that video games can help train people to kill. Ask the people we trust most, the United States military.
The military succeeds at the difficult task of getting people to overcome their natural barriers to committing unthinkable acts of violence. They use video games to train our servicemen and women for the rigors of combat.
The same games for children reward cop-killing, auto theft and drug dealing. An underage child should not have the unilateral discretion to walk into a store and purchase such a product. This is common sense.
As regional director for the Parents Television Council, I regularly speak to parents who want all the help they can get to protect their children. Many have trouble keeping up with what is in the latest games or which shows and movies that should not be viewed by their children. They want help to keep these games out of their kids' hands.
Currently, a 10-year-old could purchase a Mature (M-rated) or Adult Only (AO-rated) video game. There are voluntary guidelines that tell retailers not to sell these products to children, but they have been a failure because of their voluntary nature.
A new law (SB 492) proposed by Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, would basically take those guidelines and make them law. Despite the failure of the voluntary guidelines, the multibillion-dollar video game industry is fighting this legislation as it did (unsuccessfully) in Illinois, Michigan and California.
The evidence is conclusive: Countless independent studies confirm that repeated exposure to graphically sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term effect on children.
Most recently, researchers at Michigan State University used functional magnetic resonance imaging technology to observe which areas of the brain are stimulated when a subject plays violent video games. Researchers concluded, "there is a causal link between playing the first-person shooting game in our experiment and brain-activity pattern that are considered as characteristic for aggressive cognitions and affects ... Violent video games frequently have been criticized for enhancing aggressive reactions such as aggressive cognitions, aggressive affects or aggressive behavior. On a neurobiological level we have shown the link exists."
If these games are marketed to and manufactured for adults as the industry insists, then their sale to minors should be restricted. This solution protects our children without interfering with the rights of adults. We place similar restrictions on the sale of firearms, tobacco, alcohol and pornography. This is no different.
Video game retailers have failed to police themselves. A year ago, the Parents Television Council conducted a secret shopper in several cities across the country and found that more than 50 percent of stores were willing to sell M-rated video games to children under 16 without asking for identification.
Law enforcement in Michigan found about half of the stores they investigated sold adult-rated games to minors without asking for ID. In New York City a sting found 88 percent of stores selling M-rated games to minors.
The children of Florida are being bombarded with sexual and violent images through video games. The more than 67,000 members of the Parents Television Council in Florida are calling for the passage of SB 492 to give parents another tool to protect their children from such harmful influences. Florida must follow the lead of Illinois, Michigan and California and show that we care about our children as much as they do theirs. Parents should contact their legislators about this bill to urge a quick passage. Remember that our children are watching!