Nearly 3,000 respondents in two separate What They Play polls concluded that drinking beer and watching pornography were less objectionable activities for children than playing certain video games. Further, viewing violence was more acceptable than seeing content involving sex and sexuality within games.
“These poll results demonstrate that parents are as apprehensive about their children’s media diets as they are about traditional social issues such as alcohol, drugs, violence and sex,” says John Davison, president of What They Like, Inc. “When it comes to video games, parents should know that What They Play is a resource that helps demystify one of the most popular – and challenging – forms of entertainment their kids are into.”
“Although these findings seem surprising at first, they hint at fears parents have about video games,” says Cheryl K. Olson, Sc.D., co-author of Grand Theft Childhood. “To some parents, video games are full of unknowable dangers. While researching for Grand Theft Childhood, parents we spoke with in focus groups often bemoaned the fact that they didn’t know how to use game controls - and felt unequipped to supervise or limit video game play. Of course, parents don’t want their children drinking alcohol, but that’s a more familiar risk.”
The results of the initial What They Play online poll, conducted April 4-10, 2008, found that the 1,266 participants were most offended by the following in a video game: a man and woman having sex (37%); two men kissing (27%); a graphically severed head (25%); and multiple use of the F-word (9%).
The second poll, which ran August 1-6, 2008, queried parents on what they’d be most concerned about their 17-year-old child indulging in while at a sleepover. More than 1,600 respondents revealed they’re more apprehensive about their child smoking marijuana (49%) and playing the video game Grand Theft Auto (19%), than watching pornography (16%) and drinking beer (14%).