CHICAGO – To help parents better protect their children from the dangers of violent and sexually explicit video games, Governor Rod Blagojevich today signed an Executive Order creating the Safe Games Illinois Task Force. The task force, which will serve as an advisory board to the Governor, is made up of parents from across Illinois as well as community leaders, clergy, teachers, medical experts and child advocates.
The task force follows the Governor’s announcement earlier this month that he plans to introduce legislation to ban the distribution, sale, rental and availability of violent and sexually explicit video games to children under age 18. Right now, despite parents’ best efforts to shield their children from violent and sexually explicit video games, nothing under Illinois law specifically prohibits children from buying or renting them.
“Parents today have a tough job. Many find it difficult – if not impossible – to monitor the video games their kids are playing. And with so many new games on the market with more realistic depictions of sexual activity and violence than ever before, parents need some help in determining what games could be harmful to their children’s health and development,” said the Governor. “This task force – made up of parents and experts – can do some of the important research and groundwork that most parents and caretakers don’t have time to do themselves.”
The Governor charged the task force with informing him of parents’ concerns, gathering information about the impact of violent and sexually explicit video games on children and providing recommendations on how to educate parents and the public about this issue. The task force will include a parents’ advisory committee to actively solicit input from parents around the state, identify additional areas of concern regarding violent and sexually explicit video games, and advise the Task Force and Governor on issues raised in their communities regarding video games.
Blagojevich named the following individuals to the Safe Games Illinois Task Force today:
First Lady Patti Blagojevich, parent (Chicago, IL)
Gayla Boomer, President - Illinois Parent Teacher Association (Chicago, IL)
Dr. Dan Broughton, American Association of Pediatrics (MN)
Ald. Ed Burke, Chicago City Council (Chicago, IL)
Paul Caprio, Family PAC (Chicago, IL)
Dennis & Patty Ferrell, parents (Herod, IL)
Rep. John Fritchey, Illinois House of Representatives (Chicago, IL)
David Gee, parent (Chicago, IL)
Doug Gentile, National Institute on Media and Family/ Iowa State University (IA)
Kelli Hill, parent (Normal, IL)
Sheila Jamison, parent (Decatur, IL)
Erin Kern, parent (Belleville, IL)
Kelly & Audi King, parents (Golconda, IL)
Eric Leonard, parent (Decatur, IL)
Laura Mills, parent (Evanston, IL)
Nell Minow, The Corporate Library and Moviemom.com (VA)
Deb Perryman, Illinois Teacher of the Year (Elgin, IL)
Bill Peyton, parent (Norris City, IL)
Joni Shaver, parent (Washington, IL)
Dr. John Synder, American Medical Association (Chicago, IL)
Rev. Thomas Walker, (Decatur, IL)
Christine Westerlund, parent (Chatham, IL)
The task force will begin working immediately, but additional members will be named in the future. The Governor asked all four legislative leaders to recommend members.
During the upcoming legislative session, the Governor will introduce two bills: one to ban the distribution, sale, rental and availability of violent video games to children younger than 18, and another to ban the distribution, sale, rental and availability of sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. The likely penalty for businesses violating the bans would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine.
The two bills will also require retailers to label violent and sexually explicit video games, similar to the “Parental Advisory” label found on music CDs, and to post signs explaining the video game rating system. A retailer’s failure to place proper signs would likely be punishable by a $1,000 fine for the first three violations and a $5,000 fine for every subsequent violation.
Various studies demonstrate the negative impact playing violent and sexually explicit video games has on minors. One such study, completed in 2003 by four experts, including Task Force member Douglas Gentile from the National Institute on Media and the Family, concluded that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.
The National Institute of Media and the Family recently found that 92 percent of all children ages 2 to 17 play video games, and the average child spends 9 hours each week playing them. The Institute also found that 87 percent of pre-teen and teenage boys play games rated “M” for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. M-rated games often contain realistic depictions of human injury and death, mutilation of body parts, rape, sex, profanity and drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Even though mature games are labeled with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s “M” rating, there are no legal mechanisms in place preventing children from buying them. Unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors. In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission found that 69 percent of teenagers were able to purchase M-rated video games – giving them easy access to images many adults would consider offensive. The FTC also found that not only are minors easily purchasing violent and sexually explicit games, 10 of the 11 companies it studied produced at least one marketing document specifically targeting boys under 17 for a violent, M-rated game.
More information about the impact playing violent and sexually explicit games has on children’s behavior can be found on the internet at www.safegamesillinois.org
. The website offers parents the opportunity to report video games they feel are inappropriate for their kids and to report Illinois retailers that are selling violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Website visitors can also register their own comments and sign an online petition in support of the Governor's legislation to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.