Have you ever felt uneasy about your media consumption, or that of your friends and family? Ever told yourself, ok that’s enough for the internet today or I should really log off now? These self-regulatory thoughts, are brought about by the thought that too much media is not good for you based on alarming statistics that recommend undertaking a kind or of media detox. This week, it has become apparent that anxieties about new media technologies result in the assumption that it will have a harmful effect on society. Research is commissioned to gather evidence to support these anxieties, whether they be rational or not. In turn, the results are used to regulate media content in order to ease the concern amongst audiences.
I thought an interesting case study would be the growing moral panic of video game violence. Particularly in relation to its impact on children and youth. Take the following infographic:
While it does reflect on both positive and negative information, the negative points far outweigh the positive in this representation. Referring to the negative aspects as ‘side effects’ in a way of validating the anxieties associated with children and their video game use. Studies that reveal alarming statistics about the effect of gaming on children result in implications for public policy makers, as society places an expectation that the matter should be dealt with in order to ‘protect’ young gamers (Collier et al, 2008, p107). In the US efforts by state and local governments to limit the sale of violent video games to minors were denied by courts. One reason behind this is that the video game industry is now more profitable than both that of film and music, demonstrating a shift in the relevance of video games today. With this increasing emergence and popularity of games and the introduction of new consoles and platforms on which to play, parents in particular are concerned about the impact on their children (Collier et al, 2008, p 107).
Statistics that most alarm parents, and the wider community involve a 2004 US Trade Commission study which found 69% of 13-16 year olds were allowed to purchase a classified 17+ video game from a retailer in the absence of a parent or guardian (Collier et al, 2008, p 107). Similarly in Australia, while it is illegal to sell a video game to someone under the restricted classifications of MA15+ and R18+, the Classification of M for mature audiences is only recommended for those over 15 and may be purchased by someone of any age (Australian Classification, 2012). Additionally MA15+ video games may also be sold to those under 15 so long as they are accompanied by an adult at the time of purchase ultimately causing society to believe young people are getting access to violent and inappropriate content.
The classification of games is a form of legislative regulation that is based upon moral concerns for children. However, despite over 30 studies conducted on children in the US to test if violent video games give rise to aggressive behaviour, the results are inconclusive. With research failing to find a clear relationship (Sherry, 2006, p409). Furthermore, due to the recent nature of video game research, longitudinal analysis designs and field research have not yet been used to determine video game effects. As these thorough approaches are recognised to provide greater validity to research results, their absence in video-game research proves it difficult to take the results which suggest video games have a harmful effect on children at first-hand (Sherry, 2006, p 426).
The R18+ classification on videogames in Australia was only introduced in January 2013, in an effort to restrict the gameplay of games such as Grand Theft Auto V to only adults. Creating a clear distinction between games that are deemed suitable and unsuitable for minors. At the time of the decision, Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare told ABC News the introduction of the R18+ classification was a reform 10 years in the making and the decision was made to allow adults to choose what games they could play “in the bounds of the law.” (ABC, 2012)
Although these regulations are put into place in an effort to reduce the exposure of video game violence to minors, how effective is it? I took to my own observations to pose an answer. Looking at my 12 year old brother, along with his friends, from around the world on X-box live, they make up a community of 8-16 year olds who are playing Grand Theft Auto V, despite the R18+ classification. While this regulation may prove it impossible for a child to go into JBHiFi and ask to buy the game, it is not difficult – once the game is purchased for them by an adult – for them to play to their hearts content in the home. Ultimately placing the real issue for regulation of video games and exposure of violence to children as a private issue in the home. Therefore indicating that despite legislative efforts, regulation is really up to the parents and even the individual themselves.
That’s all for now,
ABC 2012, ‘R18+ video game rating passes Senate,’ ABC News online, accessed 16 September, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-19/r18-video-game-rating-passes-senate/4078460>
Australian Classification Board 2012, ‘Classification requirements for Computer Game Retailers,’ Australian Government Attorney General’s Department, last updated December 2012, <http://www.classification.gov.au/Pages/Home.aspx>
Collier J.E, Liddel G & Liddel P 2008, ‘Exposure of Violent Video games to Children and Public Policy Implications’, Journal of public Policy and Marketing, vol. 27, no. 1, pp 107-112
Sherry J.L 2006, ‘The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression A Meta-Analysis,’ Human Communication Research, vol. 27, no. 3, pp409-431