What's Easier For Children: Buying Violent Video Games or Sneaking Into R-Rated Movies?

The FTC answers the question in a new report
Electronic Arts

The U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of handing down a decision that will determine the scope of power that states have in regulating the sale of violent video games. Meanwhile, as the nine justices are just days away from balancing the video game industry's free speech concerns with the government's interest in protecting minors, the FTC has issued a report that has a surprising conclusion: Retailers do a much better job keeping youths away from mature video games than they do in preventing them from purchasing R-rated movies and explicit music.

The FTC recruited undercover, underage shoppers as part of an annual survey to test childrens' access to adult content. From the looks of things, perhaps due to the heavy publicity this topic has engendered, the policing of video game sales has gone way up, and it's now virtually impossible for teens to buy M-rated games. In fact, it's almost three times as easy to sneak into an R-rated movie these days than it is to buy an M-rated game.


The FTC released the survey last month, and according to David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer  Protection, "Our undercover shopper survey demonstrates some progress...But more needs to be done."

Interestingly, the study comes on the heels of an important forthcoming decision at the high court in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Assn. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last fall in an entertaining hearing that had the justices musing about things like Vulcans being tortured, the outlawing of Bugs Bunny, and law clerks obsessed with Mortal Kombat. Many legal observers believe the decision, sure to have ramifications for the First Amendment, could come anytime this week.

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