19 Jul Getting Away with Murder
July 19, 2011
Dear Friend of the Family,
We want to thank our United Families Utah Chapter and Laura Bunker for today’s enlightening review of the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn California’s law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.
Because this is pertinent information for all parents and grandparents, we are sending this alert to our entire data base.
President, United Families International
Getting Away with Murder
Parents, while you are busy taking care of business, are your children getting away with murder? After last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning California’s violent video game law, parents must be even more aware of what their children are playing–at home, at friends’ houses, or even on their cell phones.
Last year we enlisted your support in encouraging Utah AG Mark Shurtleff not to sign a brief to the Supreme Court opposing the California law that prohibited minors to purchase ultra-violent video games. We are grateful for your abundance of feedback, but at the last minute, Mr. Shurtleff signed the brief. Then, last month the Supreme Court overturned the California violent video game law. This was a disappointing ruling to all parents who were hoping for some legal protection in prohibiting minors from purchasing violent video games.
Content of violent video games:
These are not typical “war games.” These are degrading, demeaning, and inhumane. The play action includes burning people alive, decapitating people, urinating on people, torturing nude female figures, and sexually assaulting their victims as rewards for reaching certain levels. As technology advances, these violent games are becoming more realistic and brutal.
Prevalence of violent video games:
This issue may be closer to home than you realize. Researchers at Iowa State University found that “The most heavily marketed and consumed games are violent ones. Fourth-grade girls (59%) and boys (73%) report that the majority of their favorite games are violent ones.” Despite the rating system currently in place, it is easy for minors to purchase violent games. California State Senator Leland Yee reported, “In 2006, a Federal Trade Commission study revealed that nearly 70% of 13 to 16 year olds are able to successfully purchase Mature or M-rated video games.” And as James Steyer of Common Sense Media warns,“This issue is only going to get bigger, now that children can download even to their cellphones.”
Effects of violent video games:
Studies have shown a connection between playing violent video games and desensitization and/or aggressive behaviors. In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated, “The evidence is now clear and convincing: media violence is one of the causal factors of real-life violence and aggression.” The word “causal” has been the subject of controversy in this issue. Those familiar with behavioral science know that causation can only be shown through actual experiments where the researcher randomly assigns treatments and minimizes other variables. However, it would be unethical to conduct experiments on violent behavior, so observational studies such as correlational and longitudinal studies are used, where causality can be inferred. Iowa State Researchers explain that “it is the total picture of combined studies that answers the question of a causal link.” The total picture of combined studies over the years clearly points to the harmful effects of media violence. That is why we are a little confused by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s position that, “If I really felt there was strong enough evidence for a causal connection, then I’d think maybe government can step into this arena, but it’s just not there.”
Violence and pornography:
Last month the Supreme Court voted not to expand the definition of pornography (specifically, that which is “harmful to minors”) to include violence. But violence and pornography are already legally connected. If violence is included with sexually explicit material, as in images of sexual torture, the combination becomes illegal material. As the petition from the state of California explains, “The presence of violence can be the determining factor in finding otherwise protected sexual material deviant, . . . and can cause protected material to become patently offensive when it otherwise would not be.” If violence can cause pornography to lose its First Amendment protection, then extreme violence alone should be able to lose its protection as well.
Rights of parents vs rights of government:
One opponent of the violent video game law voiced the views of many by commenting, “When are people going to learn it is not the government’s responsibility to raise your kids. That’s the parents’ responsibility.” We agree that parents have the responsibility to raise their children. But in America today, parents also have the support of the law in many areas such as pornography, alcohol, gambling, cigarettes, curfews, and criminal sentencing, because minors are acknowledged to be “more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures.”
The law provides support to parents in many ways, but when it comes to violent video games, please be aware that you are on your own.
Your Friends at United Families Utah