Parents cite media as factor in societal violence

Survey conducted after Newtown shootings finds parents in favor of some media controls

A new survey conducted in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting rampage shows that parents overwhelmingly believe that violence in TV, movies and videogames contributes to violence overall, with a majority saying that the prevalence of mayhem in the media makes it difficult to shield their children from such images.

The survey, conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of Common Sense Media and the Center for American Progress, showed that parents were split on the question of whether violence in videogames is a “major” or “minor” problem. Although parents said that the current voluntary movie and videogame ratings allowed them to make informed decisions about violent content, they also were in favor of limiting when ads for graphic videogames and movies can air and be shown in theaters.

The survey, conducted Jan. 4-5, was of 1,050 parents who have a child under the age of 18 living at home.

Respondents were asked whether a series of items “contributes to violence in the United States.” Topping the list was “lack of supervision of children,” with 93%, followed by bullying, 92%; “crime in day to day life,” 86%; violence in TV and movies, 77%; “easy access to guns,’ 75%; “violence in videogames,” 75%; and violent toys, 64%.

The survey showed that 75% of parents found shielding their children from violence “difficult.” After shown an ad for the videogame “Hitman: Absolution,” 84% of parents deemed it “not appropriate” to air the spot when children were watching TV. Some 63% said the same when shown a trailer for the film “Gangster Squad.”

Common Sense Media, an parental advocacy org, cited the survey results in a letter to Vice President Joseph Biden, who is scheduled to meet Thursday evening with representatives from entertainment and later in the week with representatives from the videogame business.

Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer used the results to bolster the org’s call for limits on marketing of violent material.

He outlined a series of proposals in his letter, including a voluntary moratorium on all advertising for violent videogames and violent movie trailers during programming when children are watching.

He also is calling for legislation that would give the FCC authority to restrict the marketing of violent videogames, movies trailers and promotions when children are watching, as well as a more prominent display of movie, TV and videogame ratings on marketing materials. Another proposal calls for the Federal Trade Commission to require that the gun industry reveal all product placements and tie-ins with the videogame industry.

A recent survey done by Penn Schoen Berland and the Hollywood Reporter showed that 70% of respondents above the age of 30 felt there was too much violence in advertising for movies and TV shows, with 34% supporting greater restrictions. But 75% said it was not the role of the White House or Congress to pressure the industry to tone it down.

Related: TCA: FX chief calls for studies of H’w’d, violence links

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