Jacob Sullum

Upon introducing FEPA in December, Clinton and her co-sponsors claimed "parents are struggling to keep up with being informed about [video game] content." Yet all they have to do is look at the box or check titles at the website of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (www.esrb.org). Newer game systems even allow automatic blocking of titles with parent-specified ratings.

Thierer argues the threat of fines or criminal charges for failing to keep M-rated games away from minors could lead game developers to stop rating their products, in which case Congress would respond by establishing a mandatory government-run labeling system. Such content regulation would go even further than state laws restricting video games, all of which have been overturned on First Amendment grounds, largely because courts rejected Clinton's assertion of "a clear ... connection" between video games and antisocial behavior.

Clinton complains that "young people are able to purchase [violent and sexually explicit] games with relative ease." While it's true retailers usually sell M-rated games to the FTC's 13-to-16-year-old "mystery shoppers," Thierer cites survey data indicating that "92 percent of the time parents are present when games are purchased or rented." Present or not, parents have the power of the purse strings, especially with products that cost $40 to $60 each.

As with sex and violence on television, which the mandatory but rarely used "V chip" was supposed to block, Clinton's real complaint is not that parents don't have the power they need. It's that they're not using it the way she thinks they should.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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