Researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson on Brown v. EMA Ruling

An article penned by Iowa State University researchers Douglas Gentile and Craig Anderson tells parents around the country that the Brown v. EMA ruling on Monday shouldn’t lead them to believe that there is no evidence that violent videogames have no effect on children’s behavior. On the contrary they say, the evidence was there, but the defeat came about because the law was unconstitutional.

While there is some talk about the harmful effects of games, Gentile and Anderson also extol the benefits of games as teaching tools. Before they get into  all that, they say one thing that is extraordinary, showing how much they really understand about how the ESRB and retailers deal with children who want to buy games meant for adult audiences:

"This is a victory for free speech in that children are afforded the freedom to buy any games without requiring their parents to know what they have purchased."

Of course children can’t just waltz in to Best Buy, GameStop, or Walmart and buy an "M" rated game without proving their age with an I.D. Instead, the ruling says that the state can’t put conditions and a legal impact on retailers. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, retailers and game publishers are still bound by the industry’s ratings standard and there are penalties in place to deal with companies that don’t disclose the type of content their games contain.

While Gentile and Anderson bend the truth on that front, they do talk at length about how research works in the scientific community; scientists tend not to agree on methodology and results from scientific studies:

"Researchers differ about how large an effect violent games have, and how seriously to take it. But scientists love to disagree about these types of things. One of the best types of studies to resolve these arguments is called a meta-analysis, which is a study of studies. The most comprehensive meta-analysis of violent video games — including more than 130 studies of more than 130,000 people — found consistent evidence that violent games increase desensitization, aggressive thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behaviors, and decrease helpful behaviors. Even the few scientists who claim there is nothing to worry about find very similar results in their small-scale meta-analyses."

While the industry probably disagrees with much of what these researchers say, many can agree that  legislating controls on game sales isn’t the only answer to whatever problems games might cause:

"What we are surprised about is how much time and energy we as a country keep spending on restricting access to games. This does not seem like a good use of resources. We have ignored other opportunities that are likely to be more fruitful, such as improving the media ratings to be more reliable and valid, and improving public education about why parents should use them. Although there are substantial problems with the existing media ratings, the research also shows that when parents use ratings regularly to help choose what games children may buy/play, they can be a powerful protective factor for children. Perhaps it is time to stop focusing on access restriction, and instead begin focusing on tools that could help parents make good choices concerning their children’s media diet."

You can read the entire thing here.

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