SPRINGFIELD- Governor Rod Blagojevich today praised the Illinois House of Representatives for passing The Safe Games Illinois Act, House Bill 4023. The bill would make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban the sale and rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to children. After passing this afternoon in the house by a margin of 91 to 19, the legislation now moves to the senate.
“I would like to commend and thank the House of Representative for moving Illinois one step closer to protecting our children from violent and sexually explicit videogames. In today’s world, parents face unprecedented challenges in monitoring and protecting their children from harmful influences. This bill will make their job easier. I strongly encourage the senate to follow the house’s lead and help turn this important and commonsense legislation into law,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee on Civil Law unanimously approved The Safe Games Illinois Act, sending the bill to the house floor. Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health, provided expert testimony to members of the committee on the ill effects of violent and sexually explicit video games.
"Being a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be to control what your children see on a daily basis. It's troubling to think that a 14-year old can legally buy a video game where gang members, prostitutes, and criminals are the main characters,” said Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), chief sponsor of HB 4023. “We can't always control the world outside, but we can control the images our children see at home. This legislation is an important step to ensuring children under 18 are not exposed to the needless sex and violence depicted in many video games. I introduced this legislation because I believe children under 18 should not be able to purchase video games intended for adults. Illinois has the opportunity to lead the nation on this issue, and I'm determined to see this important legislation signed into law."
“As the science continues to show a stronger link between excessively graphic video games and negative behavior by the kids who play them, it is clear that action must be taken to address the issue,” said Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago). “This bill represents a significant step in protecting not only our children, but our society, in a responsible manner.”
The Safe Games Illinois Act would ban the rental and sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. Retailers who violate the ban would be committing a Class A Misdemeanor and could face up to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine. The bill also requires 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 properly label games or place proper signs is punishable by a $1,000 fine for the first three violations and a $5,000 fine for every subsequent violation.
"We need to protect children. This bill will help parents keep violent and explicit video games out of their children's hands," said Rep. Paul Froehlich (R-Schaumburg). Rep. Froehlich conducted an independent undercover investigation in early January that found 11 out of 15 suburban retailers sold mature-rated video games to a 15-year old minor.
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 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 or renting 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. An independent investigation by State Rep. Paul Froehlich (R-Schaumburg) and the Illinois State Crime Commission found that a 15-year-old boy could purchase “Mature” rated video games (recommended for children 17 and older) at 11 of the 15 stores he visited.
Under the Safe Games Illinois Act, “violent” games are defined as those that include realistic depictions of human-on-human violence in which the player kills, injures, or otherwise causes serious physical harm to another human, including but not limited to depictions of death, dismemberment, amputation, decapitation, maiming, disfigurement, mutilation of body parts, or rape. “Sexually explicit” games are defined as those that the average person - applying contemporary community standards with respect to minors -- would find are designed to appeal or pander to the prurient interest, and that depict or represent in a manner patently offensive to minors any of the following: an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act or a lewd exhibition of reproductive organs.
State Senator Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville) will be the lead sponsor of this legislation in the Senate.