Stupid Study of the WeekFrank Regan sent me two very interesting links.
The first is a link to a Yahoo News article
(http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060403/tc_nm/videos_dc_3). Here's the opening:
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Most video games rated "M" for mature audiences fail to disclose violent content on their labels and can easily fall into the hands of children, according to a study released on Monday.
"Can easily fall into the hands of children?" What the hell does that mean?
The study found around 80 percent of M-rated games included sex, violence, profanity, gambling or drug and alcohol use, none of which was described on the labels.
Well, duh. How exactly do they think that games get rated "M" to start with?
Previous studies have exposed how easy it is for children to get their hands on such games. For example, the Federal Trade Commission reported in 2002 that 40 percent of M-rated games were purchased for children younger than 17, while 69 percent of unaccompanied children aged 13 to 16 were able to buy games intended for adults.
That paragraph's important because of the second link, which I'll show you shortly.
Here's another bit of investigative brilliance first, though.
Activity diaries kept by caregivers recording two days in the lives of 3,500 children aged 6 to 12 found that for each hour of violent TV watched, the children spent 20 to 25 fewer minutes with friends.
Um, because they have an hour less free time? Is it possible that it's television, not violent television, having this effect? Good grief, who wrote this--The Family Council of American Heritage and Values, Which Are Under Attack by Science and Video Games? Without a comparison to regular television, that number is absolutely, totally meaningless. Hell, kids might spend 25 less minutes with their friends for each hour they read.
And we all know how dangerous comic books are.
That is an inept, shoddy article. Or maybe the study was just horribly shoddy and inept. Your choice.
Now here's the second link, which is to an FTC study that was released four days before the Yahoo story was written
The undercover shop saw a decrease in the number of M-Rated (for “Mature”) video games sold to unaccompanied children. Video games rated “M” by the ESRB contain content appropriate for those 17 and older. Forty-two percent of the secret shoppers – children between the ages of 13 and 16 – who attempted to buy an M-rated video game without a parent were able to purchase one. In the 2003 shop, 69 percent of the shoppers were able to buy one.
42 percent is still way too high, but that is a significant improvement. It's particularly an improvement from 2000, when 85 of the shoppers were able to make a purchase. That's a long, long way from excellent, but it's much better than the numbers quoted in the Yahoo article--because those numbers are four years old.
Oh, and by the way, here's what I've been asking for:
The Commission plans to conduct another undercover shop later this year to test whether young shoppers are able to buy tickets to R-rated films at movie theaters, R-rated movies on DVD, explicit-content labeled music recordings, and M-rated video games.
Like I said, that comparison data is needed, and that data collection is long overdue.
I've said it on multiple occasions: the role of violent entertainment in American culture is worthy of debate. But hysteria is not debate, and neither is stupidity.