Research Paper Offers Cues for Game Legislation Advocates

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.

Knake writes:

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.

She concludes:

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.

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  1. Rodrigo Ybáñez García says:

    But this is a "sociology and psychology" study, so, the statement of "correlations isn´t equal to causality" still applies here.

    This paper is just a big BAAAAAAAAWWWWW in many levels. The failtruck is never empty.

    They will look up and shout "Give ROFLCOPTERS to us"… and I´ll whisper "NO". The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship):

  2. Hevach says:

    Having a verifiable correlation that isn’t cancelled by simple control of side variables would be a starting point. Don’t say "correlation is not causation" unless you understand why scientists say that, which it’s clear you don’t. Correlation is the basis of all scentific measurement. In most cases, causality can never be verified, only the strength of correlation. This is especially true in soft sciences, notably sociology and psychology, where at least one major factor is a black box and can’t be directly observed. But even in the hard sciences – biology, physics, and astronomy in particular – there are extensive tracks of theory that are only supported by strong correlations. Many of our current theories of particle physics, held up by extensive observation and testing, are not based on verified causes, because one or more particles involved has never been observed.

  3. BearDogg-X says:

    Another big pile of horsecrap from a crybaby looking for excuses as to why these garbage laws get tossed by the courts for being unconstitutional especially when the science behind the "studies" "proving" that BS are so faulty, that the people behind those "studies" should have their degrees revoked(Science can not prove anything true, it can only prove something false).

    As I’ve been saying for about four years now, there is no proof that "violent" video games or any video game causes harm. After all, video games are protected by the First Amendment, and if you’re going to infringe on a Constitutional right like freedom of speech based on the claim that the speech in question is “dangerous”, then you better damn well show absolute proof of that. It’s NEVER been done.

    If there is a danger so clear and so threatening to the American people that causes these self-righteous politicians to step on the First Amendment, wouldn’t any rational thinking person have to believe that the danger would have to be so obvious and clear that there would be no argument against it? Especially since you’re directly contradicting a Constitutional amendment.

    We, the American people, have not been given any valid reason to believe that this abridging of our freedom of speech is necessary. There just simply isn’t any evidence at all of any danger from “violent” video games. This “protection” from “violent” video games isn’t needed or wanted for that matter, but please feel free to use everyone’s tax dollars for protection from things like a 10-foot storm surge from a Category 3 or greater hurricane or the fuselage of a 747 airplane entering the workplace or the home. 

    Here’s a quote that best describes these yahoos, from a deleted scene from the school shooting episode of the TV show One Tree Hill, by Brooke Davis(played by Sophia Bush) after a news reporter asked her how she was feeling while the standoff was still going on:

    “You should be ashamed of yourself. There are kids inside our school fearing for their lives right now, terrified that someone’s going to put a gun in their face and pull the trigger, and you want to know how I’m feeling?! Our pain is not a commodity for you, it’s not a newsbite to boost your ratings, because tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week when we go back to school, changed forever by a day that will never leave us, where are you going to be? At the next tragedy, thrusting your microphone in the face of the next fractured person, asking them how they feel? Lady, that is not journalism. You are not contributing anything to society. You’re buzzards circling the carnage, but you prey on the living. That is how I’m feeling, but something tells me that you’re not going to hear that.”

    The lady that authored this "research paper" should go pound sand.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  4. Shahab says:

    The only thing is, there is no hard science showing any link between violent media and any violent actions performed by children. They may say, "Child x was more likely to make action figures fight than non-game playing Child y", never "Child X attacked non-gaming Child y after playing violent media"

    Also their definitions of violent and aggresive are often misleading. I’ve seen some studies where all they did was a survey and they still felt they could draw meaningful conclusions.

    So great, if the science really backed it up then pass some legislation if you must. But why not ban violent music? Then after that we can ban violent books. I think there is no easy way around the 1st Amendment and this lady is WAY off base if she thinks science is going to convince the courts to circumvent one of our most basic rights in anyway for any group of people.

  5. CyberSkull says:

    The only disconnect I percieve in this situation is from the author’s viewpoint and the science at hand.
    Correlation ≠ Causality.
    This should ever be the case. Come back to me when you have verifyable causality.

  6. jccalhoun says:

    The paper is based on a flawed premise. She writes, "The dominance of media influence on children is recognized by scholars across many disciplines including child development, communication theory, psychology, sociology, and the medical profession.1 Numerous studies demonstrate potential harm to
    children from exposure to mass media and marketing sources.2"

    If you look at the footnotes who does she cite as "evidence" of these claims? Craig Anderson and his pals Doug Gentile, Karen Dill who he has coauthored papers with and the AAP’s "Joint Statement on the IMpact of Entertainment Violence on Children" which isn’t a scientific paper and whose final paragraph states, "We in no way mean to imply that entertainment violence is the sole, or even necessarily the most important factor contributing to youth aggression, anti-social attitudes, and violence."  Most of her subsequent citations of studies are from Gentile.

    Her overview of the First Amendment is pretty good as she covers how other media are treated under the law but she omits what I see as the most legally similar medium: film. The media she does review are either those which are carried over the public airwaves such as broadcast television or are situations involving government funding such as public libraries and internet filtering.  She also has a nice list of failed recent vidoegame violence laws.

    Her argument is that violent media should be treated in a manner similar to toxic materials.  Which is interesting but is based on that flawed premise that violent media has a negative effect on children.



  7. Vinzent says:

    We can’t wait for science! Faith exists without proof and if you have faith you can move mountains.

    We must pray to move a mountain onto an activist judge!

  8. Vake Xeacons says:

    "The [fear-mongerers] continued refusal to recognize mass media and marketing [benefit] to children has left researchers and regulators in a strange position, waiting until science might sufficiently advance to satisfy [their self-serving agendas]."

    Science is pointing in the opposite direction. For every study that "proves" cybernatography is harmful to kids, theres another that "proves" otherwise.

    Its sad how much people use (manipulate) science to try and skirt around the 1rst Ammendment.

    Isnt it ironic how you get more freedom by claiming impunity from the Constitution?

  9. JDKJ says:

    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.

    Well, then you should quit all your bitching and moaning and instead dedicate your efforts to advancing science to the point where it does provide a basis upon which to satisfy the courts’ causality requirements. ‘Cause all you’re doing right now is a whole lotta gum-bashing. The causality requirement is fixed and immutable. The deficiencies in your science aren’t. Change the things you can and accept the things you can’t.

  10. Meohfumado says:

    “the disconnect between law and social science,”


    Yeah…the "disconnect" is that the law has to be objective and much of the social science on this particular issue is subjective and unsubstantiated bullshit that seeks only to prevent people from being forced to accept personal responsibility for their own damn actions.


    "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

  11. Adrian Lopez says:

    "… clearly establish[ing] but fall[ing] short of conclusively proving a causal connection between harm to children and exposure to media violence …"

    Dear non-scientist,

    As it turns out, no claim is clearly established until such time as it is proved to be consistent with observations (which is as close as we can get to saying something is true). There’s no such thing as the kind of standard you’re demanding, unless what you really want as the standard isn’t research that "clearly establishes … a casual connection", but research that merely claims one.

  12. Icehawk says:

    Couple of things:

    1) Historically these movements have been brought forth by those that feel themselves morally superior based on their beliefs on a thing outside of law.  Ie Religion.

    2) I only said she sounded like it (imo).  Mayhaps I am wrong (would hardly be the first time) but the quote would still apply.

  13. JDKJ says:

    More accurately, she’s a law professor. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach . . . and write nonsensical articles for publication in law journals.

  14. Zerodash says:

    Meh, just wait until the law tries to limit the freedoms she doesn’t mind losing. 

    Claiming that things need to be outlawed before any reasonable scientific evaluation or general debate seems quite unbecoming of a lawyer.

  15. Vake Xeacons says:

    After all that talk of science, and the first thing you think of is "Christian"? Whos casting stones?

  16. Icehawk says:

    Fine.  Tell you what;  go and save the kiddies.  Well your kiddies anyways.  Leave me and mine out of it please.   When you become the perfect person with the perfect kids then I might consider listening to you but until then keep your nose out of the business of others.    Stop trying to warp the laws and society to what you think it should be. 

    Hmm you sound like a christian so heres something to consider.  "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

  17. Neeneko says:

    So her argument seems to be…. we should make laws before there is any science to back them up because of the ‘obvious’ (ie. made up) link?

  18. black manta says:

    Yes.  Because trying to enact legislation based on emotional appeals, sensationalism and hyperbole is better than trying to base it on factual, empircal evidence.  JT tried exactly the same thing, and we all know how that turned out.

    I’m not saying envrinmental legislation is necessarily full of hooey, but a lot of it is based on more than just a "the sky is falling" attitude.  There is some credible science to back it up.

  19. ZippyDSMlee says:

    IE science and commen sense have not allowed fear mongering and vote pandering to work through this venue.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

Comments are closed.