Thoughts on the Supreme Court's recent ruling on video games

This past weekend my husband and I took a trip up to the Twin Cities for a wedding and on the drive home, we came across an afternoon FM talk radio show. Normally we'd flip the channel and continue trying to find a good rock station, however the topic of discussion caught our interest - it was about the recent Supreme Court ruling on violent video games and the interviewee was Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council (aka the PTC).

As put by the Washington Times:
"In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court struck down a California law banning the purchase by children of violent video games. The court upheld a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision throwing out the ban on sale or rental of these games to minors, writing that governments do not have the power to "restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed," regardless of the amount of grotesque violence.

Scalia wrote for the majority in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association that children are not traditionally shielded from violence as they are from sexual conduct. He also stated that archaic texts and stories, such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Snow White and other popular fairy tales and stories depict violence as well, but we wouldn’t think of limiting children’s access to those. 

"Certainly the books we give children to read - or read to them when they are younger - contain no shortage of gore," wrote Scalia. In building a case for protecting the rights of children to purchase games that simulate decapitation, violent murder and gruesome stabbings, the senior justice actually elevated violent video games to the standard of art.

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player's interaction with the virtual world),” Scalia wrote. “That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."

He called the California law “seriously over-inclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent video games are a harmless pastime."

The case is a win for the $20 billion dollar video-game industry. Approximately 46 million American households had at least one video-game system in their homes in 2010."
 Scalia definitely makes some good points.

The interview we heard with Henson was also interesting, as she pointed out that the Paducah, KY high school shooter had never held a real gun before but he had played plenty of 1st person shooters, accurately killing many of his victims with the well-known video game headshot method. She said that he had played some of the same games that the US military has their soldiers play to help desensitize them for killing.

I see her point, but the boy was 14 and I'm pretty sure that all 1st person shooter games, including the ones the military uses, have an M-rating on them, meaning "mature content" and "inappropriate for those under 17" exactly like the R movie rating. So the question is, where were the parents and why were they letting their 14 year old play a game meant for adults?

She also called this ruling a recluse, asking "what's a parent to do?"

Um, parent their child...?

Where are these pre-teen boys' parents?
Hearing her say that, my husband and I both had the same response - you take the game away from the kid and either throw it out or put it somewhere they won't find it, duh! Apparently Ms. Henson is not familiar with this approach, however both my husband and I are - I remember growing up not being allowed to listen to certain radio stations or watch certain TV shows/channels. Yes, I did occasionally sneak listening or watching something I knew I wasn't allowed to, but still, if and when my parents found out, I was in trouble.

While I understand what California was trying to do, I applaud the Supreme Court for taking a stand and basically saying that it's not the government's job to parent your child because you're too lazy or afraid to.

The problem I think (from what I've noticed) is that the generation before mine was too concerned about being their child's best friend rather than their parent so that's partially why so many teens are messed up today when it comes to right and wrong, doing things they shouldn't, and why they're so uneducated - the parents were afraid of their children hating them if they disciplined them so they let them do whatever they wanted and gave them anything and everything whether or not it was good for the kid! And now we have an entire part of a generation that can't read, write or spell for crap because their parents never made them sit down and do their homework or paid attention to what they were doing when they were at home so the kids watched whatever, played whatever, listened to whatever.

I've noticed my part of the generation (those of us in the mid-late 20s and early 30s) are sick of the way kids act and behave today - I have several friends who teach high school in the public school district and they get soooo frustrated at how some of these kids have reached the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades and can't spell, form a sentence or even study or do homework. And when they confront the parents about their child's poor performance in school the parents don't seem to care - all they care about is making sure their child is wearing the latest fashions! It's pretty sad!

Most parents I know around my age have the same attitude about parenting as my husband and I, and I'm sure it helps that the things our kids are growing up with now are things we are already accustomed to so we that can be more involved with our kids and keep up with what they're into and parent better than the previous generation did. Most parents I know with young kids take the time to spend time with them, playing together and reading, teaching them, etc because the majority of us think it's ridiculous how teens today can't spell for crap and are so uneducated about everything.

While I may be a new parent, and disciplining your child does suck (unless of course they really pissed you off, then a "time out" comes as a bit of a relief), it's my job to teach my children right from wrong and monitor what they're playing, listening to and watching.

The ESRB has a rating system for video games that's very easy to understand and is pretty similar to the MPAA's movie rating system. They have these ratings for a reason! TV shows have ratings now too and most cable providers provide parental controls so you can even block channels on your TV. And unless anything has changed, I recall video game consoles had a parental lock on them too so unless you input the correct code, the machine won't let you play. If you find out your kid is watching, playing, reading or listening to something that's inappropriate and too mature for them, set the kid down, explain to them why it's inappropriate and get rid of the item in question. Sure they can sneak it at a friend's house, but again, as a parent it's your responsibility to be involved with your child and know what kind of friends they're hanging out with (which is a whole 'nother story).

Besides, what good is banning the selling of certain games to minors when some parents will just buy it for them anyways? Right after Christmas, I went to Gamestop to pick up a few games for our brand new PS3. There were a few people a head of me in line, one of which was a mother and her son who couldn't be more than 10 years old. I forget what game it was they were purchasing, but it was M-rated. The clerk at the register, before ringing up the game, turned the parent and told her that the game was rated M, explained what that meant and what type of Mature content was in the game (I want to say it was the Call of Duty: Black Ops, but I didn't see for sure) and asked if she was sure she wanted to buy it for her son. Without thinking twice the mom said sure! What the heck?

Yes, my husband plays CoD while he's holding our 5 months old son, although half the time he's on the verge of taking his nap and falls asleep soon anyway. As he gets older, I don't think we'll be letting him watch or play that one much if at all until he's older. Even with watching Sunday night shows on HBO like Game of Thrones and True Blood or some of the movies we watch, Jay's too young to understand it, and it's usually close to his bedtime anyway so he usually falls asleep and we just make sure he's turned away from the TV so he's not exposed to too much violence or other things he doesn't need to grow up watching. I would NEVER buy an M-rated video game for a child 10 or younger. And even in their teens, I would find out first why the game is rated M and use discretion from there.

And while I can't speak for every place that sells video games and movies, the ones around here (in the "9th most dangerous city of 2011") do card for M-rated games and R-rated movies if you look young enough. Buying a copy of CoD: Black Ops for my adult brother-in-laws for Christmas, I got carded at Gamestop as did several others ahead of me in line that were also purchasing M-rated games. And I'm 26 and definitely don't look like a teenager (and at the time I was 7-8 months pregnant too!). I've also been carded at Walmart of all places for buying an R-rated movie! So despite what some might think, places DO card for Mature products.

The bottom line is, as a parent, it's YOUR job to actually parent and teach your child, not the government or anyone else.

1 comment:

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