Survey: Parents OK with Kids’ Video Gaming

A new survey from the Harrison Group market research firm—commissioned by game publisher Activision—finds that nearly three quarter of parents are comfortable with video games as part of their family life, and nearly 80 percent report being very familiar with ESRB game ratings and paying close attention to them.

The survey comes as the video game industry faces increasing scrutiny from interest groups and legislators concerned over violent and graphic content in games. Although the video game industry has successfully struck down legislative efforts to ban certain types of games to minors on constitutional grounds (games are protected by constitutional free speech rights), incidents such as the undisclosed explicit sexual content embedded in the initial release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and an increasing amount of game content featuring wanton violence, graphic gore, and sadistic actions.

So Activision’s new survey attempted to assess how comfortable parents are with video games in their household, and how the industry’s self-imposed ratings system is working for them. The results: pretty darn well…although one wonders if the survey results would ever have seen the light of day had they turned out otherwise.

Among the survey’s main findings: eighty-four percent of parents indicated they were very familiar with the ESRB game rating system, compared to 65 percent of children aged 8 to 17 years. Similarly, nearly 80 percent of parents said they pay close attention to ESRB ratings, and that number rose to 89 percent among parents with children aged 8 to 12 years. Over half—56 percent—of parents cited a game’s ESRB rating as their top purchase influencer prior to approving a game purchase for their children.

The survey also found that nearly three quarters of parents surveyed (some 74 percent) felt video games were part of their family life, and that they were comfortable with video games in that role. Moreover, some 58 percent of parents said they play video games themselves, with 52 percent of that time spent playing with their children. And, when playing games by themselves, parents report spending half that time (49 percent) playing their children’s games.

The survey polled 1,014 online video game players in the United States aged 8 to 24 years (and their parents) between September 21 and 28 of 2006. It probably isn’t fair to generalize the results of a self-selecting online audience to the population of U.S. parents, since online families are more likely to be tech-savvy and include a greater proportion of gamers.

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