The first thing blamed for violence among children these days is the media. The type of media most blamed is video games. However, is it not the parents of underage children who are responsible for what their children do or, in this case, play? What really angers me is that the same parents who adhere to the television ratings of shows ignore the voluntary ratings of videogames.
Video games from the beginning have gotten a bad rap. The majority of lawsuits against the video games industry are form parents with young children. What most of those lawsuits neglect to inform us of is that the parents knowingly and willingly bought ratted “M” games.
What are rated “M” games? The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has published ratings for videogames. Think of them as movie ratings, but for games, entertainment software for your computer. They have: EC – Early Childhood, E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), T (Teen), M (Mature), AO (Adults Only), and RP (Rating Pending).
Rated “M” games are the definition of “mature games” that most likely include mature sexual themes, more intense violence and/or strong language. The video game manufacturers even put sub-ratings on the box to explain the ratings more.
In 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was established by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to help consumers to understand the violence of the product. It takes many months for one game to get through the board, and even then the board has to push back release dates to make sure they have a rating.
In accordance with ESRB guidelines, the ratings of the games are displayed on the front of the games box, and if sub-ratings are present, they are placed on the back of the box along with the game’s initial rating. What’s more, video game companies do not have to place rating labels on their product. Retailers don’t have to display information concerning ESRB ratings and don’t have to check for parental consent when renting or selling M-rated games to children under 17.
However, the “Commitment to Parents” program was established by the RSRB to encourage retailers do their best to not sell or rent videogames to minors. But how effective can this program be if there are no Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines for videogames?
We need to make the ESRB’s ratings federally enforced. We should card all persons buying rated “Mature” or “Adult” games to insure that we are not exposing minors to games that their parents do not approve. Another thing that we should enforce is common sense among parents, who should know that the best way anyone can verify that a game is suitable for a child, is if the parent plays it first.
What we do not need more of is parents not taking responsibility for what their children do. At some point, we have to recognize that it is not the game but the parents who permit their children to play the game who are responsible.