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M-rated video games contain unlabeled violence, sexual themes, substances, and profanity

Boston, MA -- According to a study led by Associate Professor Kimberly Thompson of the Kids Risk Project at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), 81% of a random sample of Mature-rated video games included content that was not noted on the game box. This is the first independent, quantitative study to characterize content in M-rated games related to violence, blood, sexual themes, substances, profanity, and gambling observed in game play. The study appears in the April 3 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Special Issue on the effects of media on children and adolescents published by the American Medical Association.

Parents and physicians need to recognize that M-rated video games popular with children and adolescents contain a wide range of often unlabeled content, exposing young people to messages that may negatively influence their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, said Thompson, Associate Professor of Risk Analysis and Decision Science at HSPH.

Also included in this special issue are articles by HSPH faculty member Michael Rich and senior research scientist Jean Wiecha. In the study When Children Eat What They Watch, lead author Wiecha concludes that increases in television viewing are associated with increased caloric intake among children. In Richs study, Is Television Viewing Associated With Social Isolation? the researchers find that the more time children spend viewing violent programs, the less time they spend with their friends.

The video game study authors, Thompson, Karen Tepichin, and Kevin Haninger, researchers at HSPH, used a random sample of 25% of the 147 video games for current consoles rated M by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), indicating the intended audience is for ages 17 and older. After quantifying game content related to violence, blood, sexual themes, substances, profanity, and gambling, they compared the conte
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Contact: Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-3952
Harvard School of Public Health
3-Apr-2006


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