Law Professor’s Paper: “Somebody Think of the Children!”

FirstAmendmentA research paper written by a law professor from the University of Michigan is calling for an examination of current video game legislation to increase the chances of content control laws being passed in the future, according to GamePolitics.

From Research Conclusions to Real Change: Understanding the First Amendment’s (Non) Response to Negative Effects of Mass Media on Children by Looking to the Example of Violent Video Game Regulations, by Renee Newman Knake, argues that the American court system is not addressing the threat posed by mass media to the delicate sensibilities of children while using past court cases concerning video game legislation as examples throughout the paper. 

According to the article’s abstract, “The disconnect between law and social science has led scholars like Professor Barbara Bennett Woodhouse to propose a reframing of the issues.  She calls for a paradigm shift from family law’s traditional approach of the parent-child-state triangle to recognize the influence of what she terms ‘mass-media marketing.’  She proposes a new ‘a child-centered approach [sic] to environmental ethics’ or, in her words ‘ecogenerism,’ and suggests that those who advocate for the protection of children from the harms of mass media and marketing have much to learn from the environmental law and ethics movement.”

According to the GamePolitics article, Knake comes to the conclusion that the courts are unreasonably refusing to compromise the first amendment to the United States Constitution in favor of waiting for science to “catch up” to the point where it can effectively prove that violent video games, and media in general, are having an adverse effect on America’s children.

The paper appears to be in response to the industry’s winning streak against similar legislation in general and the recent striking down of a California law which would ban the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18 years of age, which the paper explicitly refers to.

What the paper ignores (or at least avoids mentioning in its abstract) is a fact elaborated upon in a previous post, which is that there are no well-run studies that have come to the conclusion that it is video games that cause violent behavior in its players.  Also unaddressed by both Knake and Governor Schwarzenegger is the fact that a system has existed for several years to keep violent video games out of the hands of an audience that the ESRB deems to young to play them.


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