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Parents Satisfied With ESRB

Sure, we've got our Jack Thompsons and other vehement critics of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) in the game industry. States all over the union ceaselessly attempt to enact laws regulating the sale of games to minors, but these attempts always fall flat. Nevertheless, the naysayers continue to claim the ESRB's rating system simply isn't effective, and tends to overlook potentially offensive content for children. In fact, NIMF (National Institute on Media and the Family) recently produced their annual report card, in which they failed game retailer GameStop/EB for not preventing the sale of "M"-rated games to minors. The report also hinted that parents might not be as "in the know" as they think they are.

However, a new report conducted by mega-publisher Activision actually finds that parents are quite happy with the gaming situation in the household, and have no problems with the rating system.

The Harrison Group was responsible for the survey, entitled, "Ratings are Not a Game," and it showed that parents overwhelmingly agree the ESRB is a great way of determining which games are suitable for their children. The survey was held online, and ultimately polled 1,014 gamers aged 8-24 and their parents.

The following is a sample of the important results:

  • 84 percent of parents said they are very familiar with the ESRB rating system
  • 68 percent of parents said the rating system is effective for determining whether or not a game is suitable for their child
  • Parents said they research over half of the games they purchase for their children
  • 74 percent of parents said they are comfortable with videogames being part of their family's life
  • 58 percent of parents said they played videogames themselves

"We were delighted to learn that parents and their children are very familiar with the ESRB ratings system, but it was even more gratifying to see that such a large majority of parents are aware of, researching, and active in their children's videogame purchasing and playing," said Robin Kaminsky, EVP of Publishing for Activision. "Activision strongly supports the ESRB rating system, which we believe is the most comprehensive tool parents can use to determine which games are appropriate for their children. Looking ahead, these results will help strengthen our efforts to raise greater awareness among both parents and young people of why Ratings Are Not a Game."

The ESRB offered up a comment as well, emphasizing the necessity of a parent's understanding of the ratings.

"Videogame ratings can only be effective if consumers understand the ratings and use them when making purchasing decisions for their families, and this study shows that parents greatly rely on and value the ESRB ratings in helping them decide which games to allow their children to play," said Patricia Vance, ESRB President.

NIMF's Report Card actually reported similar findings in regards to a parent's involvement in their children's gaming activities. However, they also indicated there might be a gap between what parents and children view as "involvement." Although 99% of parents say they "have a hand" in which games their child plays, only about 75% of those children said they had to clear a game purchase with their parents. An even bigger gap exists in the category of whether or not the parents discussed the subject with their children. 95% of parents say they did talk about it, but only 51% of children recall any such discussion.

Kids will be kids. But at the same time, it appears the ESRB is certainly doing its job.

12/6/2006 Ben Dutka

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