The US Supreme Court ruled today in Brown vs Entertainment Merchant Assoc. against the State of California and in favor of parental rights to decide which video games their teens or preteens can purchase. In a well-meaning law, the California legislature attmpted to regulate the sale of violent video games to minors. In a 90+ page decision, the Court voted 7 - 2 to overturn the California law. In other jurisdictions, laws that require the retailers to post ratings prominently, have not been challenged. But the right of parents to decide what content their children can consume and what entertainment they can enjoy is very carefully protected. Unless the content is illegal, parents are given broad discretion.
The Entertainment Merchant Association represented the interest of parents and the entertainment software industry in the appeal. They issued a statement praising the decision. But parents should praise it more. Parents can and should be reviewing ratings on box games they purchase or their children purchase. They should be discussing the ratings and rules with their children and enforcing those rules with spot checks form time to time. (The best rule in parenting is "trust, but verify!")Have a discussion with the parents of their friends and come to a common understanding about which games are okay for them to play and which aren't. (There is power in parental numbers :-))
Violent video games are controversial. Some studies have shown that young people are hurt by playing violent games. Others have shown that they are not. That's why parents should choose for themselves what they want and will allow.
If you own an XBox or other gaming device, parental control give you the ability to set the ratings level and amount of time your children can play games. Nintendo DSi only offers safer games, and also contains built-in parental controls. If in doubt, ask their teachers, other parents and trusted retailers, such as ToysRUs and GameStop.
Using ratings and talking to other parents, teachers and professionals can help parents figure out their own comfortzone. Those decisions should be made by the family, not the government. Luckily, the US Supreme Court agreed.