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A 12-year-old’s right to video violence?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on July 2, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
July 1, 2011 4:51 pm

The people at the San Jose Mercury News, in an otherwise sensible editorial, offered this stock inanity to moms and dads alarmed about their kids’ access to shockingly violent video games:

The industry’s voluntary rating system, according to the Federal Trade Commission, does a decent job keeping games rated “Mature” and “Adults Only” from being sold to minors. And where it fails, parents still can pull out that time-tested technique: the word no.

Those parents would include the exhausted single mothers who hold down two jobs and have no idea 8-year-old Jimmy is torturing women on screen in his abundant spare time?

The parents who don’t give a damn that their kids have discovered great sport in virtual massacres? The parents who never played a video game and never bothered to find out what transpires in the likes of Grand Theft Auto?

The argument is over laws in California and other states that attempted to prevent minors from buying unimaginably vicious games. Although the Supreme Court is fine with restrictions on the sale of sexually graphic stuff to kids, it knocked down the California law a week ago on the First Amendment grounds.

Justice Stephen Breyer, a dissenter, noted the irony:

What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?

The key concept here is “minors.” Children have many constitutional rights, but not the whole enchilada. You want 12-year-olds packing .45s, per the Second Amendment? Society has always been able to protect children with policies that restrict their freedoms to a limited extent.

The problem with the court ruling is its cluelessness about the homes many kids are growing up in – about the obliviousness, incompetence or sheer stressed-out exhaustion of their parents. Sometimes Dad and Mom need a little nannyish backup from the law. Sometimes society does, too.

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