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Parents Worry More About Games Than Booze, Porn

| 11 Aug 2008 18:49
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Here's an interesting tidbit: Two polls conducted by What They Play have found that parents are more concerned about their kids' exposure to videogames than to booze and porn.

More than 1600 people who responded to a poll asking what parents would be most concerned about their children taking part in during a sleepover, 19 percent of whom listed playing Grand Theft Auto as their greatest concern, compared to watching pornography, which came in at 16 percent, and drinking beer, which received 14 percent. In fact, videogames were second only to the Evil Weed; smoking marijuana clocked in as the greatest concern among 49 percent of parents surveyed.

A second poll determined that parents were far more apprehensive about the depiction of sex in videogames than of violence. Covering 1266 participants, the survey found that a man and a woman having sex was cited as the most offensive videogame content by 37 percent of respondents, followed by two men kissing, counted as the worst possible thing their kids could ever see by 27 percent of parents. A "graphically severed head" earned "Most Offensive" status from only 25 percent of parents, while nine percent said multiple uses of the F-bomb in videogames generated the greatest offense.

"Although these findings seem surprising at first, they hint at fears parents have about videogames," said Grand Theft Childhood co-author Cheryl K. Olson. "To some parents, videogames are full of unknowable dangers. While researching for Grand Theft Childhood, parents we spoke with in focus groups often bemoaned the fact that they didn't know how to use game controls - and felt unequipped to supervise or limit videogame play. Of course, parents don't want their children drinking alcohol, but that's a more familiar risk."

"These poll results demonstrate that parents are as apprehensive about their children's media diets as they are about traditional social issues such as alcohol, drugs, violence and sex," added John Davison, president of What They Play parent company What They Like, Inc.

Findings like these, particularly in the light of ongoing efforts by the ESRB and other agencies to educate parents about videogames, are both disappointing and demoralizing because it would appear that parents are more inclined to simply throw their hands in the air (like they just don't care) and either give up entirely or leave the whole thing to external supervision and control (ie., government legislation) than to take the time to equip themselves to "supervise or limit videogame play." If familiarity is a mitigating factor in parental concern over their kids' behavior, and yet parents stubbornly refuse to acquaint themselves with videogames, what is the industry to do?

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