Video games have been a part of American culture since the late 1950s. Despite their initial marginalization, these games have rapidly evolved to become part of mainstream American culture. Their prominent role in the lives of American youth has led to increased public scrutiny of the effects and potential harms of video game usage. As with most other forms of media, video games do have a potentially positive role, especially in the health care and health education sectors. However, parallel to the trend of most other media forms, the largest and potentially most lucrative use of video games is in the form of entertainment. Unfortunately, the industry?s predisposition toward age-inappropriate imaging and marketing techniques has led to concerns about untoward side effects, ranging from physical symptoms such as seizures and tendonitis, to socially maladaptive behaviors such as increased short-term aggressiveness and overuse syndromes. Although there are some indications of a connection between the content of video games and aggressive and addictive behaviors, more research is needed in this area.
Federal and state governments have attempted to regulate access to age-inappropriate content. Legislation has the potential to be a powerful tool in this arena; however, the history of legislative attempts to control depiction of violence in video game has been largely unsuccessful, with much of the proposed legislation stalled or failed entirely secondary to potential infringements on First Amendment rights as well as aggressive lobbying from the entertainment industry. Lastly, although a rating system has been developed by the ESRB, concern continues about how effective this system is in alerting parents about the violent nature of video games marketed to children and adolescents.
RECOMMENDATIONS (Adopted AMA Policy and Directives)
The following statements, recommended by the Council on Science and Public Health, were adopted as AMA policy and directives at the 2007 AMA Annual Meeting:
1. The AMA urges agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission as well as national parent and public interest organizations such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board, and parent-teacher organizations to review the current ratings system for accuracy and appropriateness relative to content, and establish an improved ratings systems based on a combined effort from the entertainment industry and peer review. (Directive)
2. The AMA will work with key stakeholder organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians to: (a) educate physicians on the public health risks of media exposure and how to assess media usage in their pediatric populations; and (b) provide families with educational materials on the appropriate use of video games. (Directive)
3.The AMA supports increased awareness of the need for parents to monitor and restrict use of video games and the Internet and encourages increased vigilance in monitoring the content of games purchased and played for children 17 years old and younger. (Policy)
4. The AMA encourages organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health to fund quality research: (a) on the long-term beneficial and detrimental effects not only of video games, but use of the Internet by children under 18 years of age; and (b) for the determination of a scientifically based guideline for total daily or weekly screen time, as appropriate. (Directive) 5. The AMA will forward [this report] to the American Psychiatric Association and other appropriate medical specialty societies for review and considration in conjunction with the upcoming revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (Directive)