A teacher and author of the School-Wise books threw her support behind California's law that was argued before the Supreme Court last month.
By now, you should have heard all about the proposed California law which would impose criminal penalties and a fine up to $1000 for anyone who sells to a minor any videogame deemed too violent. Despite being struck down as unconstitutional by two separate courts, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear arguments for and against the law from the state of California and the Entertainment Merchants Association. The oral arguments were quite entertaining, and it was clear that support for the law was mixed amongst the nine Supreme Court Justices. Check out my article that tells all about what it was like that day in our nation's capital if you want to know more. Carol Josel, a teacher with over 14 years experience educating children and author of books like Getting School-Wise and 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips, went on record as supporting the law. She cites 30 years of research that "prove" that violent videogames have an effect on children and shows disdain for the ratings already in place by the ESRB.
"Video games: absorbing, interactive, potentially addictive, and, on many occasion, violent - and therein lies much of the problem," Josel wrote on her blog. "That's because many experts believe the brutality our children are exposed to desensitizes them and contributes to aggressive and very unchildlike behavior."
I'd argue that violence is a very childlike behavior, but there's a lot that Josel writes that I don't agree with. She seems to hold the belief that a lot of other videogame opponents share that games are especially corrupting influences because of the very interactivity that makes them games. "These games are uniquely interactive with kids shooting, maiming, even decapitating human beings for amusement," she wrote. The California law is important because a parent cannot play the game and make decisions for themselves. "That's because often the brutality comes only after hours of play and that, for instance, a player must first kill a cop before burning a woman."
Josel goes on to cite various statistics that don't necessarily prove her point. "A survey of 4,028 Connecticut high schoolers found that 6% of boys and 3% of girls reported signs of 'problem' gaming, including 'an irresistible urge to play, trying and failing to cut down on gaming, and feelings of tension that could only be relieved by playing.' Plus, 4% of the girls said they'd gotten into a serious fight, and 8% said they'd carried a weapon," she wrote. I'm not sure how she correlates the 4% of girls who get into fights with videogame play; there is no indication that they are the same 3% who are "problem" gamers.
She outlines the current ratings of the ESRB, but then lumps them all as not good enough. "Adequate? You decide. After all, some would assert that 'minimal violence' and 'crude language' might not be appropriate for a six-year-old or want their 13-year-old exposed to "violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.'"
It's never good for people to make kneejerk judgments, but I'm not sure that Carol Josel knows what she is talking about. She seems to ignore the fact that treating games like pornography or cigarettes through legislation is a slippery slope. Who will decide whether a given game is violent or not? As Supreme Court Justice Scalia wondered, will California appoint a censorship board for games?
The decision of the Supreme Court on this issue will likely be delivered within the next six months. Let's hope that the spirit of creativity and free speech that this country was founded on prevails and that the Supreme Court finds in favor of the EMA.