Nov 15,2006

Abrahams takes aim at violent video games

Abrahams takes aim at violent video games

Calls on retailers to clearly post game ratings

Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams and the Nassau County Legislature’s Government Services Committee approved a local law that will inform parents and protect children from violent video games by requiring game retailers to alert the buyer of a game’s rating and to also conspicuously post the rating system. The law is expected to be approved by the full legislature at the next session on November 1.

"Parents are busy and the information they need to make informed decisions to better protect their children is not readily available. Many parents are unaware of the video ranking system, and do not know what level of content is associated with each rating," said Abrahams. "The rating level printed on the cover of the game is not enough, requiring retailers to clearly post the ratings information will provide parents with all available information and allow them to better protect their children from the violent and gratuitous behavior displayed in many video games."

Testifying at the Government Services Committee regarding the proposed law were Dr. Elizabeth Carll, a clinical and consulting psychologist in private practice on Long Island; Sandy Oliva from Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Patrick O’Connor of the Nassau County Police Department and several PTA officials.

“A comprehensive analysis of violence in interactive video game research suggests exposure increases aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and decreases helpful behavior,” said Dr. Carll. “Efforts to improve the rating system for video games would be a first step in providing additional helpful information as to the content of video games.”

The Entertainers Software Rating Board provides ratings in two parts--rating symbols which suggest age –appropriateness for the game and content descriptions. The ratings include- C-for early childhood; E-for everyone; E 10+-Everyone 10 and older; T-Teen; M-mature, 17+; Adults-adults only; and RP-rating pending.

Games like "Grand Theft Auto" depict police officers, women and innocent bystanders being beaten, shot and even attacked with a chainsaw. "Grand Theft Auto" and other games like it receive a rating of M for Mature but few parents realize these games display such gratuitous violent and sexual behavior.

According to the American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children and adults. Youth who played violent video games for a short time experienced an increase in aggressive behavior following the video game. In addition, a study by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine show that playing violent video games triggers unusual brain activity among aggressive adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders.

The proposed law would require Nassau County video game retailers who sell video games that are labeled with a rating system to post a sign providing information about the rating system and to also provide consumers with written information about the system.

Violators can be fined up to $500 and will be given an opportunity to be heard in a proceeding before the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs.

"The rampant increase in violent video games makes the difficult job of being a parent even harder," said Mejias. "I believe parents will appreciate the posting of the ratings information so they can be more aware of what they are purchasing for their children.

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