By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
Recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors is unconstitutional. The 7-2 decision was immediately hailed as a victory for the First Amendment. This ruling also means that parents have a heightened responsibility to pay attention if they want to ensure that the video games their kids are playing are “age appropriate.” Monitoring the games the kids buy or rent from a local store is no longer enough because on-line games are increasingly in vogue.Moreover, not all of those games are educational or benign. As the Huffington Post noted in describing a particularly notorious example, “The object of School Shooter: North American Tour 2012 … is to murder as many defenseless students, teachers and members of staff as possible. To do so, the player uses weapons based on those used by the likes of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. After completing the spree, the player is encouraged to commit suicide before being captured by law enforcement officials.”Fortunately, a wave of repugnance led the producer to withdraw that game. However, many other games that are popular with impressionable adolescents of all ages feature acts of extreme violence, whether it involves shooting at inanimate targets, skulking terrorists, or Nazi zombies. Most experts say these games provide a harmless outlet for normal kids who understand the boundaries between mock violence and the real thing. On the other hand, young psychos in training may reach different conclusions.Meanwhile, the legal bans and other taboos forbidding minors from witnessing various romantic entanglements remain in place – even though the frequency of teen pregnancy suggests that many minors ironically are forbidden to see Hollywood’s R-rated depictions of the very conduct they’ve already engaged in.Then again, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Given its track record, nobody can accuse the U.S. Supreme Court of consistency – foolish or otherwise.