Science and research be quiet. The US Supreme Court said makers can develop and sell, and kids can play, violent video games. It?s their constitutional right under Freedom of Speech.
That?s not to say that parents, educators, and psychologists are going to like the decision. There has been a tug of war about the influence of violent game play in a kid?s virtual world and their potential for violence in the real world. However, that?s not the point. Adhering to the Justices interpretation of the US Constitution is.
The Justices pointed to conflicting studies regarding the effects of such games on young children. An Iowa State University study concluded that exposure to violent video games makes kids more aggressive, less caring – regardless of their age, sex, or culture. The study analyzed 130 research reports that included more than 130,000 subjects worldwide.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court?s ruling that the state of California "has not demonstrated a compelling interest, has not tailored the restriction to its alleged compelling interest, and there exist less-restrictive means that would further the State’s expressed interest." By a 7-2 decision it was decided that the California ban was a violation of the First Amendment. The dissenting justices were Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer.
Justice Scalia wrote that the basic principles of freedom of speech do not vary with a new and different communication medium. The court found that the ban on such violent games "abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose [adult guardians} think violent video games are a harmless pastime." Justices Alito and Roberts left the door open for another approach, however, stating "I would not squelch legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a significant and developing social problem. If differently framed statutes are enacted by the States or by the Federal Government, we can consider the constitutionality of those laws when cases challenging them are presented to us."
Other mediums were concerned that if the ban proposed by California were upheld TV, movies, music, and books could come under scrutiny and new restrictions regarding violent content might be forthcoming. They?d have to ban the 10 o?clock news if that were the case.
Scalia pointed out: "Some of the Grimm?s fairy tales are quite grim," he added. "Are you going to ban them, too?" Recently appointed Justice Elena Kagan asked Zachery Morazzini, a lawyer for California if a game, Mortal Kombat, which she characterized as having been played by many of the court clerks would qualify under the state?s ban. Morazzini felt it would.
Moral Kombat could have fallen under the defeated California ban on violent video games
So the questioning continues – what is violent, what is adversely affecting our children, and what can our legal system do about that? In this one case, the court has spoken. Look for the battle to continue in other forms and in other states.