Go to a movie. Buy a CD. Pick up a videogame. There's a
good chance that if you're young (or just look it), you might
have to present a proof of age before you can complete the
purchase. It might seem to be a hassle, but in the long run,
it may be worth it. With government officials spending taxpayer
money to investigate the influence of questionable material
on our youth, a number of the industries have had to self-regulate
rather than face governmental intervention. Here are some
of the bigger players:
Software Rating Board) - Created in 1994, the ESRB gives
ratings for software, including console and computer games
and certain websites. Their ratings include EC (Early Childhood),
E (for Everyone), T (for Teen), M (for Mature), and A/O (Adults
Only). They also provide content descriptors to let parents
know for what reason the content is rated.
(Recording Industry Association of America) - Under pressure
from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the
Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), the RIAA agreed in 1985
to begin self-regulating releases from the musical community
by labeling releases with potentially offensive material with
a Parental Advisory sticker. While not all record labels perform
this practice, most of the major labels do, in hopes of avoiding
governmental oversight. There is no breakdown or descriptors
for these labels, which can often leave parents with a "black
and white" decision on whether or not to buy the album.
(Classification and Rating Administration) - Effective
since November 1, 1968, this rating system was voluntarily
created and enforced by the Motion Picture Association of
America and the National Association of Theatre Owners. Ratings
include G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance), PG-13
(Parental Guidance for those under 13), R (Restricted -Parental
Guidance for those under 17) and NC-17 (No one under 17 admitted).
Why do we need these rating systems? Well, without a self-regulating
rating system, each of these industries would come under heavy
fire from parent groups who blame them for potentially corrupting
the morals of our youth. Musical artists, record labels, movie
production companies and the like potentially are forced to
spend more money on defending themselves in court over moral
corruption lawsuits. Rather than suffer unending legal battles
or even government enforcement, each industry has decided
to police itself.
The biggest flaw in the system is at the point of purchase.
Many times, the people who are at the registers don't bother
to check for I.D. to ensure the people they are selling the
tickets, CDs or games are of legal age. I personally have
seen times where answering yes to the question "Are you 17
or older?" was enough to get someone into a theatre. And because
of this problem, the Georgia State Legislature is trying to
pass the Violent
Video Game Protection Act, in which selling Mature rated
videogames to a minor will be deemed a misdemeanor.
While this solution may seem unsavory, it comes across as
a government action in response to a seemly lack of concern
by the sales force to ensure that underage shoppers aren't
getting products without the approval and supervision of their
parents. While this currently may not be a national concern,
if Georgia does pass the measure, it's one step closer to
seeing something similar in other states and eventually nationwide.
So, the question in point is: "Do the Rating Systems work?"
In theory, yes. In practicality, not always. And the industry
is not always to blame. In fact, parents are as responsible.
Parents who don't actually take an interest in their children's
entertainment are as much to blame. How many parents allow
their children to own questionable material and even buy it
for them only to come back months or even years later and
complain about how their children have become troublesome
by the music they listen to or the games they play?
If you want to keep the rating systems effective without
government intervention, take an active role in making sure
that the suggested guidelines are enforced. If you work in
a place that sells tickets or products, be sure to make sure
that questionable material isn't getting into the hands of
children. If not, the government may be forced to step in
some time down the line.