Recently Common Sense Media, a non-partisan organisation "dedicated to improving the media lives of children and families", sent out a questionnaire about kids and the media to the current roster of presidential candidates.
In it they only ask one specific question about video games, the candidates take on legislating violent video games sales. Only Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Senator Barack Obama, Former Governor Mitt Romney and Governor Bill Richardson answered the questions in time for the deadline. The answers, I believe, give readers a sense on the candidate's take on video games and the first amendment.
In his answer Edwards points to the ESRB as a good example of industry responsibility. Barack seems to be calling for the feds to get involved, if only to once more study the impact of video games on "children's cognitive development." Richardson calls for the parents to be educated about the inappropriate content of "many video games." Citing the need to protect children from a "societal cesspool of filth, pornography, violence, sex and perversion", Romney says that the government needs to "get serious" against retailers that sell adult games to children.
Both Edwards and Barack also sort of talk a bit about gaming when answering a question about managing their childrens' media use. Hit the jump to read their answers to that question and all four candidates full take on video game censorship.
Question: How Do You Manage Your Kids' Media Use?
Senator John Edwards of North Carolina My wife Elizabeth and I spend as much time with our children - Jack, who's 7; Emma Claire, who's 9; and Cate, who's 25 — as possible, on and off the campaign trail. We try to limit the time our younger children spend watching TV and playing video games by providing them with a lot of other activities. Our youngest children both play community sports, and Elizabeth especially does a lot of arts-and-crafts projects with them. Beyond UNC games, watching television isn't a favourite pastime in our home.
Elizabeth likes to say that we've had children in the '70s, the '80s, the '90s and our youngest just in 2000, so we've faced a wide range of parenting challenges and joys, including changes in media and popular culture. We've always encouraged our kids to think critically about the things they see on television and in movies in light of the values we've tried to instill in them.
Senator Barack Obama As a general matter, we try to limit the amount of television our children watch. Children watch an average of three hours a day of TV — for African American children, it's four. It's too much, and all parents should turn off the TV and read to their children more often. But when our children do watch television, we try to watch it with them. This means finding programming that we can watch as a family and being there to answer any questions it may raise with our kids.
Obviously, this gets harder when I am on the campaign trail. But Michelle and I make every effort to read with our kids as much as possible. Rather than just sitting them in front of the television, we try to get them to read the latest Harry Potter.
Question: To date, nearly 10 states have considered legislation to keep violent video games out of kids' hands. Would you support this type of legislation at the federal level? What other strategies would you support to keep the video game industry and other media companies from marketing and selling inappropriate content to children?
Answers: John Edwards, D-NC: While parents must ultimately decide what video games their children play, a lot of the responsibility for restricting marketing should be placed on software manufacturers. The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a good example of industry responsibility, and I support its ratings program, guidelines for responsible advertising practices, and outreach to game manufacturers and retailers. I also support leading video console manufacturers' use of parental controls.
But we have more work to do. An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission found that, since 2000, the likelihood of a child under age 17 being able to purchase an M-rated game (intended for people 17 or older) has been cut in half, falling from 85 percent to 42 percent. That number is much too high, and the FTC has also reported continued problems with the marketing of these games, especially on the Internet. If the industry does not continue to make progress in keeping video games with intense violence and adult content away from children, we will need to consider further steps to ensure that parents' decisions about their children's exposure to these games are not being undermined by retailers, advertisers and manufacturers.
Barack Obama, D-IL: We need to give parents the tools and information they need to make choices about what programs their children are watching or what video games they are playing. As we move towards a digital environment, there is a golden opportunity for the industry to do this on their own—to use the latest in technology to give parents more information and more choice. For example, this technology could make it possible for parents to create their own family tier just by programming their television to block certain channels, block certain genres of programming like dramas, or block television at certain times of the day. The same can be said of video games, especially as we're moving into an era when they can be downloaded as easily as today's movies and television shows.
I would call upon the video game industry to give parents better information about programs and video games by improving the voluntary rating system we currently have. Broadcasters and video game producers should take it upon themselves to improve this system to include easier to find and easier to understand descriptions of exactly what kind of content is included. But if the industry fails to act, then my administration would.
And even if the industry does do some responsible self-policing, there's still a role for the federal government to play. We need to understand the impact of these new media better. That's why I supported federal funding to study the impact of video games on children's cognitive development.
Bill Richardson, D-NM: I would consider this legislation, but I truly believe that we should make sure parents are educated about the inappropriate content of many video games. We have to get parents — all parents — more involved in the education of our nation's students. Legislation and teachers cannot do it alone, no matter how good they are. Parental involvement is more important to a child's success than any test or book.
As president, I will issue an executive order that provides all federal employees with eight hours per year of paid, one-to-one time with their children. And I will encourage businesses and the rest of the public sector to do the same.
Mitt Romney, R-MA: I want to restore values so children are protected from a societal cesspool of filth, pornography, violence, sex, and perversion. I've proposed that we enforce our obscenity laws again and that we get serious against those retailers that sell adult video games that are filled with violence and that we go after those retailers.
Presidential Questions [Common Sense Media]