The Supreme Court has recently ruled that a California law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors is unconstitutional (Story and commentary here).
I have to admit that the libertarian in me agrees with this decision. Which makes the internal struggle all the more poignant.
Mainly because the libertarian in me is a purely logical, black-and-white, take-no-prisoners idealogue.
The other part of me- the parent, the educator, the one who works with kids forty hours per week- is horrified. I would rather have my kid be able to walk into a store and buy a Playboy rather than a game that included the above scene of gristle (of course, logically, a false dichotomy, but emotionally powerful enough to make the point).
I posted my thoughts on this on my facebook page and got replies from all my smug libertarian friends about how it is the parents’ right and responsibility to choose, so, the Supreme Court, was, of course, correct in their decision.
The problem is, in twenty years of working with kids and families, I know that there is a percentage of parents who abdicate that right and responsibility. Over the past year, I have overheard conversations of 2nd and 3rd graders talking about the carnage they create playing such games as “Call of Duty”, “Assassin’s Creed”, “Halo”, and other such games. And while the studies around violent TV and video games’ effect on the psyches of impressionable youth come down solidly on the side of “not a good idea to let them play these”… like global warming, there’s just enough wiggle room for the other side to cry that their rights are being infringed.
While the solid empirical evidence is unclear, I suppose that what it comes down to for me is – do we want a world where kids are given scenes like the above as a “plaything”? Are we ready to deal with the potential consequences ten years down the road?
Yes, I do understand that this is not Armageddon.
It is not the end of humanity as we know it.
But it is one small, tiny, almost subconscious step away from a world of peaceability, community, and non-violence. We have enough violence and carnage and insensitivity in the world already. My question is, are we ready to tolerate more for the sake of entertainment?