Rockefeller convenes panel to address protecting children from violence in media

March 25, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • United States Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., spoke with local media Monday afternoon in Martinsburg, W.Va., prior to his round-table discussion on the effect violence in television, movies and video games has on children.
Joe Crocetta / Joe Crocetta

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Ratings help, but parental intervention is the key to protecting children from the effects of playing violent video games, watching violence in movies and on television and seeing what’s widely available on the Internet, according to participants in a round-table discussion on the issue Monday.

The panel of 10, including parents, Jefferson High School students, a teacher, pediatrician and representative of the Entertainment Software Rating Board was convened by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at 2500 Foundation Way.

The 25 members in the audience were invited by Rockefeller to ask questions.

“This is a major American subject,” the senator said before opening the round-table discussion.

He recounted a recent incident in Ohio where two teenage boys assaulted a girl and sent images over the Internet. The U.S. Supreme Court maintains that the Internet has First Amendment rights. “They (the justices) say we have a right to watch it (the rape incident); that it’s no worse than reading a classical novel. We need to find a better way to protect children,” he said.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Congress is doing nothing about the issue.

“It’s all off the table unless there are new ideas on how to give parents a chance to get to their children. It’s staggering how quickly they (young people) adapt to the Internet and new apps,” he said. “Even the best parents can’t keep up.

“For busy parents, monitoring every minute of their kids’ lives simply isn’t possible so we need to arm parents and other responsible adults with the best available information about violent media,” Rockefeller said in prepared remarks.

To that end, he told round-table members he has introduced legislation, The Violent Content Research Act of 2013, that would direct the National Academy of Science to research the impact of violence in the media and in video games on children’s behavior and mental health and report back to Congress in 15 months.

The news appeared to be well-received by the panelists.

Tammy Lynn Woody, who represented Charles Town, W.Va.-based American Public University System on the panel, said experts can’t agree on whether there is a causal effect between playing violent video games and children acting aggressively or getting involved in violent behavior.

“There’s no constructive modeling for students with known risk factors like poverty and poor parenting,” Woody said.

Randy Walker, of the nonprofit Entertainment Software Rating Board, said video games have been rated since 1994. The most violent carry an “M” rating, which can’t be sold to minors.

Walker said most retailers enforce the rules. Some retailers “card” buyers to check IDs, he said. “They’re very cooperative,” he said.

Leslie Craybill, a mother of a 12-year-old son, said she’ll check the rating on a video for her son, pay $60 for it and take it home. “Five minutes into it, I say, ‘Oh No. That’s got to go.’ I take it back for $20,” she said.

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