Help is on the way for Utah parents to keep violent, pornographic, adult-rated entertainment from their kids. There's a bill now in the Utah Legislature to do just that.
First, is there a problem? An AOL poll last week found that of nearly a quarter of a million respondents, 80 percent "are concerned about violence in video games," with 56 percent "very concerned."
Science gives the reason for concern. MRI brain scans at Harvard, Michigan and Indiana State universities prove that teens' still growing, maturing brains process violent entertainment in the copycatting midbrain and not in the frontal lobes, which intercept and curb violent behaviors. The American Psychological Association in 2005 found that teen play of violent video games leads to aggressive behaviors.
Our military appropriately uses violent video games a) to suppress the inhibition to kill of new recruits, and b) to teach killing scenarios. Games have the same effect on civilian teens.
The "Grand Theft Auto" games are cop-killing murder simulators. You run over innocent civilians. You have sex with women and then kill them. In Oakland, a teen gang was stealing cars and killing the owners. In police custody, one of them told detectives, "We played GTA by day, and we lived it by night." Life has imitated the "art" in video games countless times.
Last month an Ohio judge, presiding over the trial of a teen video gamer for murder, said, "After awhile the same physiological responses occur playing video games that occur in the ingestion of some drugs. … an addiction to these games can do the same thing. … Daniel Petric had no idea, at the time he hatched this plot, that if he killed his parents, they would be dead forever."
After Columbine, the 1999 school massacre authored by two teens who copycatted the school-shooting scene in the movie "The Basketball Diaries" and trained on the video game "Doom," President Clinton met with entertainment industry heads. The president of the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents operators of two-thirds of all U.S. cinemas, promised the president, "From now on, parents will know that the 'R' rating means what it is supposed to mean. We intend for every young person to show a photo ID."
In 2008, the FTC conducted stings on movie theatres and found 35 percent of the time kids under 17 can buy an R-rated movie ticket, no questions asked. Carmike Cinemas, with theaters in Utah, was found by these FTC stings to fail checking IDs a whopping 56 percent of the time.
In retail stores, the FTC in 2008 found R-rated movies were sold to underage kids at a dizzying pace: Kmart, 47 percent of the time; Blockbuster, 53 percent; Best Buy, 62 percent, Barnes & Noble, 64 percent; Target, 65 percent. At Transworld Entertainment/FYE, with stores throughout Utah, the failure rate is 78 percent!
At the 1999 White House promise-fest, the head of video game lobbyist Entertainment Software Association promised "to close the loophole" that allows kids under 17 to get their hands on mature-rated games via the Internet. This very day, not a single U.S. Internet retailer, such as BestBuy.com, WalMart.com and Target.com, verifies the age of any purchaser, even though reliable age-verification software is used by online alcohol, tobacco and firearm retailers.
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Here's the bill in Utah: It doesn't define what content is "harmful to minors," so we avoid the phony First Amendment arguments Hollywood loves to make. The bill simply states: If you promise the public you don't sell adult-rated entertainment to kids, then you had better be telling the truth, because if a parent catches you selling this stuff to his or her kids, then you're guilty of fraud under the Truth in Advertising Law.
The Entertainment Software Association bragged this week that it spread $4.2 million around to "lobby" politicians at the federal level, with more spread around to state politicians. ESA wants to make sure entertainment retailers can continue to go behind parents' backs and get at kids.
In Utah, this dangerous fraud must stop.
Jack Thompson, a former practicing attorney who lives in Miami, Fla., is the author of "Out of Harm's Way," which recounts his efforts against the entertainment industry.