Research into impact on kids to include several formats

The Senate has passed a bill authorizing federal funds for research into the possible effects on childhood development from exposure to movies, television, videogames and the Internet.

Vidgames are likely to receive the most scrutiny, and the research could be the prelude to some form of federal regulation of sales.

The Children and Media Research Advancement Act, known as Camra, directs the Centers for Disease Control “to provide grants for research focusing on the impact of factors like the format, length of exposure, age of viewers, nature of parental involvement and venue in which media is viewed,” a Senate statement said.

While research will focus on several media formats, videogames — in particular, those with violent content — have been heavily criticized by two of the act’s co-sponsors, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rick Santorum (R-Penn.).

Other sponsors include Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

Several states have tried to regulate sales of violent videogames only to see the efforts challenged legally and in many cases struck down by courts. Childhood development experts have cited a lack of reliable research showing conclusive links between exposure to electronic media and negative development. If this new research establishes even the strong possibility of such links, Congress may use it to justify a similar, federal attempt at regulating.

“The early stages of a child’s life are a critical to his or her development, but we know little about how media affects them in these early years,” Brownback said in a statement. “We need a thorough and empirical understanding of the effects of media on child development so that we’re not in the dark about what’s happening to our children.”

The bill passed by unanimous consent, meaning that since no member objected to the bill, it was allowed to pass without a formal roll call vote.

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