Mature-Rated Games Tougher to Buy Than R-Rated Movies
The FTC measured how often underage users can buy mature content.
Each generation has its own scapegoat responsible for corrupting the youth and dragging down the cultural consciousness. The 1800s blamed the novel, while the 20th century cycled through jazz, radio, comic books, rock and roll, heavy metal, hip-hop and other kinds of music in rapid succession.
Today, violent video games are a popular target for criticism, taking heat for everything from increasing aggressive thoughts to inspiring mass shootings. One thing is clear, though: Stores are generally not selling these products to children.
According to a recent study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), retailer compliance with age ratings is very high across the board. If youngsters are getting their hands on violent media, it's likely not through stores.
The FTC sent a number of 13- to 16-year-olds, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, as undercover shoppers to movie theaters and electronics stores across the country. From there, they attempted to purchase a restricted piece of media: a ticket to an R-rated movie, an R-rated or unrated DVD, a CD with a Parental Advisory Label, or a Mature-rated video game, all of which require the buyer to be at least 17 years old.
While retailers generally denied the shoppers their adult media of choice, the FTC found that video games elicited the highest cooperation, with only 13 percent of sellers willing to shirk regulations. These numbers have remained steady for the last three years.
Movies ranked somewhere in the middle. Only 24 percent of underage shoppers were able to buy tickets to an R-rated movie, while 30 percent found success buying R-rated or unrated DVDs in stores. Both of these statistics have declined considerably since 2010, when 33 percent of underage shoppers could buy R-rated movie tickets, 38 percent could buy R-rated DVDs, and 47 percent could buy unrated DVDs.
Music compliance was the weakest of the three categories, with 47 percent of shoppers still able to purchase Parental Advisory Label CDs. Still, this figure has fallen from 64 percent in 2010.
The Motion Picture Association of America, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and the Recording Industry Association of America rate movies, video games and music, respectively. It is important to remember, however, that none of these ratings is legally binding. [See also: The Most Influential Video Games of the Last 50 Years]
The study did not measure how many minors get their hands on potentially unsuitable material. Parents can still buy these media for their children, and getting forbidden content handed down from an older sibling is more or less a rite of passage. Online retailers also tend to be somewhat more lax, since faking a birth date and providing a credit card are relatively simple.
While these numbers are promising, it is, as always, up to parents to determine what content is and is not appropriate for their children. Luckily for them, the data indicates that both retailers and ratings agencies are ready and willing to help.