Senator Lanza Urges Crackdown On Video Game Violence

Andrew J Lanza

April 19, 2007

Senator Andrew Lanza (R-I, Staten Island) and members of the Senate Majority Conference today called for a crackdown on violent video games and announced the introduction of legislation to combat and reduce children’s exposure to violent and inappropriate materials within these games.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno today also announced the appointment of Senator Lanza as Chairman of the Senate Task Force on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry.

"The Virginia Tech massacre is a painful reminder of the culture of violence which has severe and tragic consequences on our youth and for our society," said Senator Lanza. "The emotions and behaviors of our young children is far too often shaped by the virtual reality of violent movies and video games. It is imperative that we find a way to prevent these virtual realities from continuing to fuel and to teach the violent behavior which is corrupting or youth."

"No child should be playing ‘games’ that involve mutilating people with chain saws, having sex with prostitutes, or dealing drugs," said Senate Critical Choices Task Force Chairman Martin J. Golden (R-C, Brooklyn). "This hyper-violent material is mind-boggling in its brutality, and our kids should simply not be exposed to it. These commonsense proposals will better inform and empower parents throughout our State, while also helping to prevent our kids from gaining access to these video games."

Currently, video games are rated "E" for everyone, "T" for teens, "M" for mature, and "AO" for adults only. A study by a group of Harvard University researchers published in 2004 reviewed a random sample of 81 "T" rated video games and found that 48 percent contained violence, sexual themes, substance use, gambling, or profanity that was not noted on the game box as it should have been. In addition, a recent study published in Applied Developmental Psychology found that only twenty-five percent of parents surveyed said that they "always" check the industry rating of computer and/or video games before renting or buying them.

The measures to be advanced in the Senate will include the following:

Advisory Council:

The legislation will establish a new Advisory Council on Media, Entertainment Software and Youth Violence, which will review and make recommendations on the effectiveness of the current Entertainment Software Ratings Boards (ESRB) ratings system in keeping violent video games out of the hands of youth. The panel, which will include parents, educators, experts in child psychology, child welfare advocates, concerned citizens and industry representatives, will also develop policies relating to public education and advocacy against youth violence, examine efforts being undertaken in other states, and develop recommendations for additional ways of regulating the exposure of youth to these games.

Rating System Labeling Requirement:

Under current State law, there is no requirement that retailers place labels on video games sold in New York. To address this shortcoming, the legislation to be advanced in the Senate would establish a new requirement that every video game sold in New York by a retailer or over the Internet, whether new or for resale, must have a clearly displayed rating indication on the game cover or elsewhere (such as on a website). Individuals who violate these provisions will face fines and penalties.

Parent-Teacher Anti-Violence Awareness Program:

The legislation would also establish a new Parent-Teacher Anti-Violence Awareness Program, which will empower parents and teachers to work with students and children on issues related to violence in video games. The program will also seek to increase awareness of the ratings system on games, and the importance of appropriate parental supervision. The Anti-Violence Program would be funded through fines on retailers who violate the new labeling law.

Further Steps to Be Taken:

As the new Chairman of the Senate Task Force on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry, Senator Lanza indicated that he will be reviewing a broad spectrum of issues related to video violence, with a particular focus on additional steps that can be taken to curb children’s access and exposure to such "adult-only" material.

The Senate Majority has long been a leader in the fight against escalating levels of violence and inappropriate materials in video games. In the wake of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, and the revelations that the killers were fans of, and seemed influenced by, violent video games, the New York State Senate Majority formed the Task Force on Youth Violence and the Entertainment Industry. After a series of five public hearings, the Task Force issued recommendations and introduced legislation, that was subsequently passed by the Senate, aimed at combating and reducing children’s exposure to violence and inappropriate materials within video games.