Nav: Home

Video game ratings work, if you use them

January 25, 2017

AMES, Iowa - Nearly every video game sold or downloaded comes with a rating that provides age-appropriate guidelines based on the game's content. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of ratings, but new research from Iowa State University indicates the rating system is a beneficial tool.

Russell Laczniak, a professor of marketing and an associate dean in ISU's College of Business, says the results clearly show children spend less time playing violent video games when their parents use the rating system to guide purchases and set rules for video game play. This indirectly affects behavior. When parents limit video game play, children are less likely to act out or misbehave, Laczniak said. The research, published online in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, also suggests that more time spent playing video games increases negative behaviors of children.

The video game rating system was developed in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Rating Board in response to congressional pressure on the industry to reduce play of inappropriate games. The ratings (see sidebar) reflect the amount of violence, sexually explicit content and profanity in each game. In the paper, researchers point out that a rating system is important because of failed efforts to ban or restrict children's access to violent video games, often ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

To test the ratings' effectiveness, Laczniak and colleagues from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University and Utah State University collected data through an online survey of families with children 8 to 12 years old. Researchers looked specifically at this age range because it's a time of various developmental challenges and cognitive changes - growing independence, exposure to risky behaviors and peer influence.

The survey included a section for parents and a separate section for children. Parents reported their use of the ESRB rating scale, the hours their child spent playing video games every week and their child's bad behaviors at school. Children were asked about play levels and their perception of rules related to video game play.

The final sample included 220 families. The majority of children were boys and the majority of parents were mothers. Researchers controlled for gender, income, ethnicity, age and single or dual-parent households. Laczniak says the rating system itself is not beneficial unless parents use it appropriately.

"Parents must actually mediate kids' purchases and play of video games, which requires effort and time. They also need to use the system in these mediation-based activities. For example, if a 6-year-old wants to purchase a game targeted at teens, our results suggest that parents should intervene," Laczniak said.

Dispelling the 'not-my-child' myth

To that point, Laczniak says there are ways in which the video game industry and government could help parents better understand and use the rating system. In the paper, researchers offer these suggestions:
    * Game developers could superimpose ratings on the game to help parents see what their child is playing by simply looking at the screen.

    * The federal government could develop public service announcements to inform parents about the ESRB system and how it can help decrease levels of video game play.

Laczniak emphasizes the need for parents to take an active role in their child's video game play. He cites a study by Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State, which found most parents do not develop a "healthy media diet for their children," and they tend to believe other children - not their own children - are more influenced by violent media.

Parents may also be reluctant to use the rating system, or see its value, because of mixed messages connecting violent video games and behavior, researchers said. Laczniak says the ESRB ratings system is an effective tool for parents to use when setting rules for video game play, but there are other factors to consider.

"It's important that parents set specific rules for their children regarding video game play. However, parents need to consider their own behavior," Laczniak said. "Our previous research shows that parents who are warm and restrictive are more successful in limiting play for violent games. If parents are highly emotional and anxious, children will tend to play more, regardless of their use of mediation and ESRB knowledge."

Doug Walker, a former assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State, now at Kansas State; Les Carlson, the Nathan Gold Professor of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and E. Deanne Brocato, a former assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State, now at Utah State University; all contributed to the study.
-end-


Iowa State University

Related Video Games Articles:

Study questions video games' effects on violent behavior
A new Contemporary Economic Policy study finds that there is not enough information to support the claim that violent video games lead to acts of violence.
Do video games drive obesity?
Are children, teenagers and adults who spend a lot of time playing video games really more obese?
DeepMind's new gamer AI goes 'for the win' in multiplayer first-person video games
DeepMind researchers have taught artificially intelligent gamers to play a popular 3D multiplayer first-person video game with human-like skills -- a previously insurmountable task.
How does dark play impact the effectiveness of serious video games?
A new study has shown that allowing ''dark play'' in a serious video game intended to practice skills transferable to a real-life setting does not impact the game's effectiveness.
Study: Collaborative video games could increase office productivity
Move over trust falls and ropes courses, turns out playing video games with coworkers is the real path to better performance at the office.
Pitt researcher uses video games to unlock new levels of A.I.
Dr. Jiang designs algorithms that learn decision strategies in complex and uncertain environments like video games.
For blind gamers, equal access to racing video games
Computer Scientist Brian A. Smith has developed the RAD -- a racing auditory display -- to enable visually impaired gamers play the same types of racing games that sighted players play with the same speed, control, and excitement as sighted players.
Video games to improve mobility after a stroke
A joint research by the Basque research center BCBL and the London Imperial College reveals that, after a cerebral infarction, injuries in areas that control attention also cause motility problems.
No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.
Action video games to fight dyslexia
A study conducted by BCBL, the Basque research center, reveals that action video games improve visual attention and reading ability, two of the deficits suffered by people with dyslexia.
More Video Games News and Video Games Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.