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The Effectiveness of Media Rating Systems in Preventing Children's Exposure to Violent and Sexually Explicit Media Content: An Empirical Study

22 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2008  

Patrick M. Garry

University of South Dakota - School of Law

Candice Spurlin

University of South Dakota Law School

Abstract

This article states that most forms of electronic media entertainment now carry some sort of voluntary rating system. Television, motion pictures, musical recordings, and video games are all subject to a self-imposed industry rating system. While these rating systems recognize that there is much media entertainment programming that is unsuitable for children; the imposition of these rating systems also serves a self-interest of the various media industries. By adopting some type of regulatory system, self-imposed though it may be, the media industry hopes to avoid or forestall more stringent or demanding governmental regulations.

The majority of parents strongly support the efforts of Congress to protect children from harmful and offensive entertainment speech. However, most efforts by Congress to regulate violent and indecent media programming are struck down by the courts as violating the First Amendment.

The study described in this article, although narrowly focused, suggests that the voluntary measures undertaken by the media are not nearly as successful in achieving their stated goals as might otherwise be claimed. The results of this empirical study indicate that children are indeed being exposed to various media products that, according to the rating system, are inappropriate for those children. Despite the media's continual promotion of its various rating systems, the present study suggests those systems may be ineffective at best. Moreover, the rating systems could actually cause harm in that as parents rely on them to prevent their children's exposure to unwanted media programming.

Keywords: First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Media content, Media rating system, Media self-regulation, Children, Electronic entertainment

JEL Classification: K1, K3, K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Garry, Patrick M. and Spurlin, Candice, The Effectiveness of Media Rating Systems in Preventing Children's Exposure to Violent and Sexually Explicit Media Content: An Empirical Study. Oklahoma City University Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1139167

Patrick M. Garry (Contact Author)

University of South Dakota - School of Law ( email )

414 E. Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
United States

Candice J. Spurlin

University of South Dakota Law School ( email )

414 E. Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
United States

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