Media watchdog releases study of video games on eve of holidays

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 – In the movie “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa, but his parents tell him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Today, parents are still concerned about gun violence, but now, with virtual-reality gaming systems, it’s much more graphic, a media watchdog group said Wednesday.

With the holidays around the corner, the National Institute on Media and the Family released its 11th annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card alerting consumers of this year’s problems with video games.

According to the findings, retailers improved their record, selling fewer violent video games to minors; however, the survey showed that few parents control their kids’ video game consumption using the Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings.

“Many parents have not followed or used these tools to prevent their kids from playing inappropriate video games,” said David Walsh, president and founder of the institute. “We parents need to pay more attention to the games our kids are playing and how much time they are spending playing games.”

In the past 13 months, the launching of Sony’s PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ushered in a new era of gaming. Whether it is cutting-edge graphics, expansive online support, media technology or other industry-changing innovations, gamers will have a hard time choosing one gaming system this season.

“Every iteration of this technology brings us closer to virtual reality,” Walsh said. “And when young people spend hours and hours on interactive technology literally rehearsing behaviors, we know that has an impact, and the research is getting clearer.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has an extensive history in sponsoring initiatives in media responsibility, joined the organization in its battle to challenge parents to protect their kids and society at large.

“It’s not just the kids who pay for this, it’s the rest of us,” Lieberman said about media violence and its effect on children. “We need to be willing from time to time to step up and use that word ‘no.'”

According to a 2005 institute report, children under 6 spend more time watching TV than playing outside. Excessive media use among children in the study led to a variety of problems including increased rates in obesity, impaired brain development, poor academic performance and sexual activity at an early age, the report found.

Lieberman encouraged parents to screen their kids’ video games and reduce violent media consumption. “Watch what your kids watch,” he said. “Play what your kids play.”

Photos by Mariam Ahmadi Simpson

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