A research article penned by a Michigan State University College of Law Professor examines video game related legislation and asks if prompts can be gleaned from the environmental law and ethics movement in order for such legislation to have a better chance of being passed in the future.
From Research Conclusions to Real Change: Understanding the First Amendment’s (Non)Response to Negative Effects of Mass Media on Children by Looking to the Example of Violent Video Game Regulations was written by Renee Newman Knake.
The heart of the matter, writes Knake, is “the disconnect between law and social science,” or the reluctance of U.S. courts to recognize (what she terms) the consequences mass media has on children.
Environmentalists successfully established a regulatory framework for evaluating empirical science in the face of uncertainty and arguments questions about the validity of research. The movement to protect children from media harm can do so as well.
Knake’s paper relies heavily on the research of Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, who coined the term “ecogenerism,” or someone who thinks about child welfare as well as a wide range of other problems confronting children and society.
Thus, Woodhouse concludes that research “clearly establish[ing] but fall[ing] short of conclusively proving a causal connection between harm to children and exposure to media violence” could be relied upon by legislators in adopting regulations so long as it is rooted in science, not popular opinion.
The law’s continued refusal to recognize mass media and marketing harm to children has left researchers and regulators in a strange position, waiting until science might sufficiently advance to satisfy a court’s causality requirements and in the meantime engaging in a seemingly fruitless exercise of tweaking statutory language in an effort to survive First Amendment strict scrutiny.
The full paper can be downloaded here.