Many Americans would never let their eight year old see an R-rated movie, but according to findings from a January 2013 Harris Poll of 2,278 U.S. adults (ages 18+) interviewed online, some children may be playing video games beyond their maturity level. While only one-third of Americans (32%) said they understand everything or a lot about video game ratings and nearly two in five (38%) indicated they know nothing about the system, the majority (66%) of those U.S. adults with video game-playing children in their households indicate using a video game’s rating to determine whether they allow their child to play it. And, despite nearly three in five Americans (58%) agreeing that there is a link between playing violent video games and teenagers showing violent behavior, 33% of those with young gamers under their roofs indicate allowing those children to play whatever games they want.
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“The findings underscore the lack of awareness Americans have about the video game rating system, as well as the confusion in the market,” said Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll.
They also factor into a larger discussion playing out across our country and on a political stage around how violent games impact our youth, with President Obama recently announcing his desire to look into ways to fund research examining the impact of violent video games on children.
Only a combined one-third of Americans (32%) indicate understanding either everything (14%) or a lot (18%) about video game ratings, which compares poorly against familiarity with movie ratings (77% combined, 34% everything, 43% a lot) and TV ratings (50%-17%-34%).
- Roughly three in ten Americans (31%) indicate knowing a little about video game ratings.
- Nearly four in ten (38%) indicate knowing nothing about the system.
Americans also have less confidence in video game ratings (32% somewhat or very confident) than in either movie (49%) or TV (39%) ratings being able to prevent children from being exposed to inappropriate content.
- Nearly half (47%) of Americans indicate being not at all confident in video game ratings’ ability to do so.
Playing Video Games is… Healthy?
As the debate rages on around the impact of video games on children, from obesity to violence, an overwhelming 69% of Americans agree that playing video games is a good thing for children as it can help with hand/eye coordination and provide other skills. However, nearly six in ten Americans agree that there is a link between playing violent video games and teenagers showing violent behavior (58%).
- The majority agree that there is no difference between playing a violent video game and watching a violent movie (56%);
Whose Problem Is It?
When asked about the regulation of video games, nearly three-fourths (73%) strongly agree, and 9 in 10 (90%) either somewhat or strongly agree, that parents should be the chief regulators when it comes to what video games children are allowed to play.
While parents are clearly seen as the primary party that should be charged with this type of oversight, there are mixed feelings on the role other parties should play:
- More than half (56%) agree that the government should not interfere when it comes to who can and cannot buy video games, but 47% agree that there should be government regulations on violent video games to ensure limited access to them.
- Additionally, roughly half of Americans (52%) agree that industry self-regulation, including ratings and retailer enforcement, is the best way to regulate which video games children are allowed to play.
- Women are more likely than men to agree that parents should be the chief regulators (92%-87%) and that there is a link between playing violent games and teens exhibiting violent behavior (62%-53%), while men are more likely to strongly agree that the government should not interfere when it comes to who can and can not buy video games (33%-24%).
For more information, or to view the full findings and data tables, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.
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