Statements & Releases - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York

July 14, 2005

Senator Clinton Announces Legislation to Keep Inappropriate Video Games Out of the Hands Of Children

Calls On FTC to Investigate Source of Sexually Explicit Content on Grand Theft Auto Game

Washington, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) today announced that she will introduce legislation to help keep inappropriate video games out of the hands of children. She also called upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take immediate action to determine the source of graphic pornographic and violent content appearing on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game. Recent reports have revealed that this graphic content can be unlocked by following instructions widely available on the Internet.

“The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children and it’s making the difficult job of being a parent even harder,” said Senator Clinton. “I am announcing these measures today because I believe that the ability of our children to access pornographic and outrageously violent material on video games rated for adults is spiraling out of control.”

Senator Clinton announced that the legislation she will introduce will put some teeth into video game ratings by instituting a financial penalty for retailers who fail to enforce the rules. It will prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors and put in place a $5000 penalty for those who violate the law.

Recent research has confirmed links between exposure to violent video games and aggressive behavior in children and a groundbreaking new study by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine show that playing violent video games triggers unusual brain activity among aggressive adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders. Senator Clinton noted that this is just the latest piece of evidence that confirms the potentially damaging impact of these games on children. Senator Clinton also noted that the current, industry enforced system is not yet working as it should and is not acting as a deterrent to kids accessing inappropriate video games, underscoring the need for today’s action.

In calling for the FTC to launch an investigation, Senator Clinton urged the FTC to determine whether an Adults Only (AO) rating is more appropriate than the current Mature (M) rating for the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game given this new, alarming content. She also requested that the FTC examine the adequacy of retailers’ rating enforcement policies.

According to research by the National Institute on Media and the Family, games rated M, which means they are appropriate only for people aged 17 or older, are relatively easy for teenagers and even children as young as age 7 to obtain. In the National Institute’s recent study, 50 percent of boys between the ages of 7 and 14 successfully purchased M-rated video games, and an astonishing 87 percent of boys play M-rated games. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of retailers in the study don’t even understand the ratings they are supposed to enforce, and only half of the stores train employees in the use of the ratings.

“No wonder these games are falling into the hands of our children and no wonder so many parents feel everyday like they are fighting this battle with their hands tied behind their backs,” said Senator Clinton. “We need to do better. We need to do everything we can to make sure that parents have a line of defense against violent and graphic video games and other content that go against the values they are trying to instill in their children.”

The following is the text of Senator Clinton’s letter to the FTC:

Deborah Platt Majoras
Chairwoman
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC

Dear Chairwoman Majoras:

Recent reports have revealed that the video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, has graphic pornographic content which may be unlocked by following instructions widely available on the Internet. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has given this game a Mature (M) rating, which means it is appropriate only for people age17 or older. In all likelihood, this revelation means the game deserves an Adults Only (AO) rating. Alarmingly, it seems that no one yet knows the source of this content. The ESRB is investigating this matter and I am hopeful its investigation will be vigorous and thorough. But the public has a strong interest in learning the answer quickly. We should all be deeply disturbed that a game which now permits the simulation of lewd sexual acts in an interactive format with highly realistic graphics has fallen into the hands of young people across the country. I therefore urge you to take immediate action to determine the source of this content and the appropriateness of the M rating in light of its vast accessibility, and to make your findings public. Parents who rely on the ratings to make decisions to shield their children from influences that they believe could be harmful, should be informed right away if the system is broken. Parents face an uphill battle just understanding the ratings system. They cannot and should not be expected to second guess it.

I also ask that you conduct a careful examination of the adequacy of retailers' rating enforcement policies. According to research conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family, M games are relatively easy for teenagers and even children as young as 7 to obtain. In the National Institute's recent study, 50% of boys between the ages of 7 and 14 successfully purchased M-rated video games. Furthermore, only 76% of retailers in the study said they understand the ratings they are supposed to enforce. And only half of the stores train employees in the use of the ratings. The National Institute has determined that 87% of boys play M-rated games and 78% list an M-rated game among their favorites. As a Senator, I hear from parents all the time about the frustration they feel as they try to pass their own values onto their children in a world where this type of material is readily accessible. There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder. I will be exploring legislation to help parents with this challenge when it comes to purchasing video games soon and I hope you will work with me to ensure that the ratings system - the best tool parents have to filter this material - is meaningful. Sincerely,

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton


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