Reporter: E-Rated Kids' Game Unsafe For Kids Because The Internet Is Scary

from the swing-and-a-miss dept

We’ve discussed before some of the problems with the ESRB rating convention. Even more aggravating is how those ratings are seen and used by the general public, often with a mighty disconnect between what parents say is important and how much effort they actually put into understanding what the ratings mean. But I’ll forgive parents their contradictions because, hey, people are stupid, right? It’s not like they’re actually paid to understand every meticulous detail of everything in their lives. But you know who are? News organizations. They are supposed to both fact-check their stories and actually think through what they’re putting on the air. A recent piece on Sacramento’s ABC News10 station failed in spectacular fashion on both accounts.


First, the title splashed across the screen reads “KIDS GAME CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT.” No, it doesn’t. Like…at all. Out of the box, Little Big Planet 2 earned every bit of that ESRB “E for everyone” rating by being as kid-friendly and innocuous as it gets. The “problem” discussed in the clip is content created by gamers online, not what’s contained within the game created by developers.

Second, the reporter’s follow up question asked Barry White, who is apparently News10’s “Game Guy,” if he thought this stuff was created by sexual predators trying to diddle kiddies. What!?!? It’s as though the reporters have never experienced the internet. If every person out there who created something graphic online in any way was a child predator, we’d all be in a hell of a lot of knee-deep-in-predators trouble.

Finally, what about that ESRB rating? The reporter asks White if the E rating gives parents a false sense of security. As White notes, that’s only the case if those parents are illiterate chimpanzees, given the fact that the rating quite prominently notes that online interactions in the game can’t be rated. In other words, you can’t blame a game or its creator for what the strange and unwashed masses do with it online. Or in other, other words, the exact freaking opposite of everything said by the news team.

The money shot in this sexy story of stupid is at the very end, after the reporter talks about how parents should monitor their children’s gaming and use the parental controls built within the consoles. The anchor’s response?

“Speaking as a parent, my kids would probably know better how to get to the parental controls and configure them than me.”

Yeah, well, exactly who looks like the idiot in that comment? Maybe if you’re going to be the parent of a gamer, you should at least take a modicum of interest in how to parent a gamer. Here’s a hint: that doesn’t include defaming a nice, kid-friendly game on the news just because you don’t want to understand stuff.

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Comments on “Reporter: E-Rated Kids' Game Unsafe For Kids Because The Internet Is Scary”

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48 Comments
Anonymoussays:

“Speaking as a parent, my kids would probably know better how to get to the parental controls and configure them than me.”

You got that right. I remember playing Duke Nukem 3D when I was about 11 (or something) and noticing the “parental lock” (I think that’s what it was called) option, turning it on to see what the heck it was, getting bored with it because it disabled gibbage, forgetting the password (and getting pissed about it), reinstalling the game and playing the game again without the lock. At age 11. In DOS.

Parents don’t stand a chance.

Trailssays:

It's weird cause there is a concern

The concern is “Little Big Planet 2 grants access to online user-authored content, some of which is vile”. This is genuinely useful to parents. Unfortunately they don’t discuss the distinction and therefore confuse rather than clarify, in order to make it seem like the sontent was authored by sony.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Why discuss game from 2 years ago?

2 reasons. One is that LBP2 is a very popular game that was given away for quite a while on PS Plus, so it has a large user base (therefore making it both more likely that inappropriate content exists than would have done on first release). On first release, the E rating would have applied to all content, as people hadn’t worked out how to make their own yet. The second is probably that someone in the news room only just noticed.

Chris ODonnellsays:

When my daughter was 6 we found her surfing the web unsupervised. When asked, she showed us how she typed in my wife’s password, which she had figured out by watching my wife type it, then clicked the Firefox icon, and then typed what she wanted into the box on Google.

At age 6.

That was the moment I resolved to teach my kid’s everything they needed to know about online safety and gave up on any fantasies of filtering or otherwise controlling their access.

Bengiesays:

Re: Re:

I was building computer at age 8, setting up IRQs so my mouse didn’t conflict with the modem or printer. Lots and lots of jumpers.

People forget how smart they actually were when they were young. They see kids as if they’re idiots, but really it’s just that everything is new and exciting, so they act “childish”.

If you treat kids as smart people who are learning to become responsible, then one will appreciate teaching kids instead of just telling them to blindly do what you say.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Children are also natural hackers, because they live in a world designed for people with stronger muscles, better motor skills, keener senses, better communications skills, and other essential abilities and knowledge. Survival and development require them to tinker with their world in order to learn about it. Indeed, much of what child psychologists call early learning would be calling hacking by technologists. Younger children have little to do with
their time but hack and, as children grow, the ones who retain their hacking skills will be the more formidable adversaries.

michaelsays:

Dumb

“Speaking as a parent, my kids would probably know better how to get to the parental controls and configure them than me.”

This is an attitude I run into all the time: Older people deciding that new technology is too hard for them.

I work at a university, and am amazed at how completely the faculty manage to screw up something as simple as putting a syllabus online, let alone using more complex teaching tools.

Here’s the bottom line: A good teacher is not just an expert at their chosen subject; they’re an expert as using teaching tools.

Similarly, a good parent needs to have skill at using parenting tools. Even really scary ones — like computers.

Michaelsays:

The real problem

The real problem is clearly fingers. Children would not be able to end up in the path of online predators without fingers. If we outlaw children’s fingers and remove them from all of the children, this problem will be gone. They also will not be able to get into the box of Playboy magazines or use their telescope to peep on the neighbors. As they get a little older, they will not be able to open a beer bottle, so it solves underage drinking.

Let’s all join in a movement to: “Un-finger the Children”!

out_of_the_bluesays:

Timmy, did YOUR parents monitor your game play?

Multiple choice quiz.
1) Yes: then it should be done by all.
2) No, they didn’t care that I was exposed early to adult content…
3) Yeah, but I got around parental controls!: Then you’re merely quibbling at the last block quote.
4) (Sigh.) Blue, READ up there, it’s not THE GAME itself, it’s online content!: Yeah, then just as reported, this is useful additional information that concerned parents need.

In every case, is a non-story.

I don’t see any other answer than those but it has inspired me to coin “vice panic”, the characteristic Techdirt piece ranting about “moral panics”. Means that you kids get upset whenever think someone somewhere may disapprove of your pornz, violent video games, or piracy.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Timmy, did YOUR parents monitor your game play?

Have you SEEN what you can DRAW on the BoArD?! You can MAKE COPIES of REAL CONTENT if you have a pen! Checker’s boards are clearly IMPLEMENTS of piracyONE We need to round up all TEH RICH people, strip them naked, shoOT everyone tHAT sees their nakedness, then force them to found A colony in alberta TO stop this from HAPPENING!

DannyBsays:

Re: Re: Timmy, did YOUR parents monitor your game play?

Means that you kids get upset whenever think someone somewhere
may disapprove of your pornz, violent video games, or piracy.

Back with the ad hom insults again I see. As usual.

I am not a kid. I suspect there are few to zero kids here.

As an adult, what is wrong with getting upset if someone wants to disapprove of any perfectly legal activities I may engage in? Do I not have a right to my own opinion as much as the disapprover?

How is this different than you children at the RIAA / MPAA getting upset when anyone points out abuses of copyright?

It is beyond obvious that you are not and never have been here to contribute anything useful or have an adult discussion. Your goal is to pollute the forum to the point that no useful discussion can take place.

Dark Helmetsays:

Re: Re: Timmy, did YOUR parents monitor your game play?

“I don’t see any other answer than those”

Well, you’re wrong, there is another answer:

I sprung into existence purely by our creator as a way to counteract your vile stupidity. I am the sum of an equation created by your lack of language skill, intellect, and good-looks. I am the omega to your alpha, a being of pure light to counteract your darkness.

Either that, or you’re just wrong again, as per usual. You figure out which, half-wit….

Anonymoussays:

This is exactly the kind of crappy, sensationalist reporting that makes me avoid the local news stations.

Ratings agencies and game manufacturers are not a proxy for parents. They serve as a hint and nothing more. Parents (speaking as one) are responsible for making sure their kids know what is right and wrong. Not the game manufacturers, a ratings board, schools (hah!), the government (HAH!), or even your church. I caught my 12-yr-old dropping the F-bomb in Minecraft and banned him for a month–uninstalled the game from his computer and did random checks to be sure he hadn’t installed it again. We talked about why certain words are a problem (offend people, get you in trouble at school if they slip out, better ways to express yourself, etc.) and made sure he understood why he shouldn’t use them.

Oh, and…

>If every person out there who created something graphic online in any way was a child predator

being a child predator wouldn’t be a crime because they would be the majority and elect child predators to office and… oh, wait.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Foley_congressional_page_incident
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_congressional_page_sex_scandal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_political_sex_scandals_in_the_United_States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_state_and_local_political_sex_scandals_in_the_United_States

Anonymoussays:

Are ratings still useful?

First off, I can’t see the video at work so please forgive me if this is way off target.

Doesn’t the whole “online interactions not rated” thing kind of render the ESRB moot at this point? I mean, how many games are being released any more with no online component? It’s not about blaming the developer for what users do online. It’s about whether the “E for Everyone” rating prominently on the box actually means anything useful for parents.

Imagine if the computer at your local library had a big sign reading “This computer contains no porn and is Safe for Everyone ™” and another sign saying “We take no responsibility for the internet, which is accessible from this computer”. Surely the first sign is at best misleading in light of the second.

Greevarsays:

Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

Or how about, “Our game is rated ‘E’ for everyone, but it’s not our job to be the morality filter for the internet. Take personal and active responsibility for what your kids see. Parenting isn’t something you leave to the content creators. It’s your job to act as a filter, not us.”

Anybody that takes that “E” as an excuse to allow their kids to play those games unsupervised is an unfit parent. You wouldn’t let your kids wander the city streets on their own, so why would you let them wander online on their own?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

I wouldn’t. I don’t disagree with the parental responsibility argument, but what then is the point of the “E for Everyone”?

It’s effectively saying “Part of this game is safe for everyone. The rest is your responsibility.”

It’s not that it isn’t true. It’s that it isn’t useful.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

But it is useful. You know that the non-online part is OK. If you’re concerned about your children encountering inappropriate material, then you should lock off the internet (which, I imagine, such parents already do).

I’m not sure how else you could do an informative rating system. If you just mark anything that can access the internet as unsafe for children, then the rating system becomes uselessly uninformative.

Maybe add a new letter to the ratings? “I” for Internet?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

But it is useful. You know that the non-online part is OK. If you’re concerned about your children encountering inappropriate material, then you should lock off the internet (which, I imagine, such parents already do).

What concerns me is that the era of games that work without an internet connection may be coming to an end. That seems to be the way things are headed, and we haven’t worked out anything ESRB-like for the always-connected world.

I think the point of the original news story, if there was one, is that many parents are NOT aware of this. They see an “E” rating on the box and the online content warning seems like fine print, a technicality. If they’re not online gamers themselves, they just don’t grasp what “user generated” content implies.

It’s like the DVD boxes with their “bonus features unrated” fine print. It’s mostly an acknowledgement that the studio just didn’t bother the get the bonus features through the MPAA process (which would seldom be worth the effort). You expect an NC-17 movie to have racy content in the bonus features. You DON’T expect Rule 34 to be in full effect for the bonus features on “My Little Pony”. But with “unrated” user-generated online content in games, that’s exactly what you get.

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

I think the point of the original news story, if there was one, is that many parents are NOT aware of this

I understand. But my point is that if parents are really sensitive about internet content, they’ve already ensured their kids can’t get on the internet, so it doesn’t matter if the games try to or not, as the connection attempt will fail.

If the parents haven’t done this, then the parents are at fault here.

PaulTsays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

“we haven’t worked out anything ESRB-like for the always-connected world.”

Because, given the huge amount of content generated every day, that’s literally impossible. Unless you force every piece of user content to be rated before it’s allowed online, even through 3rd party services that the publishers of the original don’t control (which is equally impossible).

You’re almost right with your central point – people should be educating parents about the risks of online content, even if it’s associated with something that was originally family friendly. But, another rating system isn’t going to work – you only have to look at the people who openly buy CoD and GTA for their 8 year olds to understand that.

“If they’re not online gamers themselves, they just don’t grasp what “user generated” content implies.”

…and there’s the actual problem. Dumbass parents buying content and equipment for their home of which they have no knowledge of its content or implications. Ignorance is no excuse for negligence.

“You DON’T expect Rule 34 to be in full effect for the bonus features on “My Little Pony”.”

You would if the features were user generated and not supplied in an unchanging form on a physical disc.

The news story was a sensationalist piece, aimed at the same idiots who don’t realise what the content is. But, the ultimate blame is with the parents who are giving their kids access to stuff they don’t bother to understand despite the warnings being there, not a news crew failing to mention it or the producers of the game for not making a new rating system.

The actual rating should probably be “E for Everyone – unless you access online content, in which case this can change without warning”. Whether that’s adult user generated content, bad language on voice chat or the ever present “pedo boogeymen be here”, any parent should understand that before they give their kid their first online session – be that with games or any online access. If they can’t handle that, they don’t have to get their kid online without supervision.

Phillipsays:

Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

The game doesn’t require the internet to be played.

There is nothing that says you have to allow your kids on the internet. If you just get the game and let them play it or supervise them while they do without downloading player content it will be ‘E’ content.

There is no reason for nor any way for the ESRB to know what you are going to say or do in the online content.

Look at Halo the content itself is one thing and if you are fine with your kids playing it then ok. However, when they get into online play if you do not have voice communication limited you have no way of knowing what the trolls in your game will spew out.

Heck I’m an adult and I don’t want to listen to the drivel that most players spit out. Most users who aren’t interested in this do 1 of 2 things or both.
1) only use parties to play so you can only hear your friends.
2) only allow voice communication from friends on your list.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

The game doesn’t require the internet to be played.

There is nothing that says you have to allow your kids on the internet. If you just get the game and let them play it or supervise them while they do without downloading player content it will be ‘E’ content.

So is the ability to download online content off by default out of the box? Or do I have to know that this is something that I have to go in and disable?

There is no reason for nor any way for the ESRB to know what you are going to say or do in the online content.

Agreed. This is why I wonder how useful the ESRB is anymore. LBP2 aside, more and more games make online play a central feature. If online play/content can’t effectively be rated, then what are the ratings for?

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Are ratings still useful?

Despite the unfortunate trend of games going online-only, there are still LOTS of games that don’t need any internet connection at all. I imagine this is particularly true for games intended for children under 13 (since there’s that whole COPA thing).

The existing ratings remain useful. Perhaps there should also be a label mentioning that the internet is required for those cases (in my opinion, such all games should have such a warning anyway, just so I know which ones to avoid.)

Anonymoussays:

It will happen to you

It’s easy to dismiss parents who don’t feel like computer experts as stupid, but ask yourself if you’re better at using computers/game consoles/smartphones/social media than your parents. Are your parents stupid? (Disregard if your parents are actually stupid.)

Technology has a way of overtaking us. Likewise with social trends. My parents learned to write Fortran on punched cards when almost no one they new had even used a computer. Today I have to set up their TiVo for them.

Are there parental controls for most systems today? Sure. Are there GOOD parental controls that are clear, easy to use, and aren’t an afterthought? Mostly not. Can a bright kid with friends or access to Google outside the home get around most of them? You betcha.

Keroberossays:

The Real Story is Horrible, Lazy Parents.

This is the real problem these reporters need to be reporting. Lazy ass parents who refuse to take the ten seconds it took me to find this, this, this, and this on the web, and the ten minutes it would take to set it up. But I guess it’s just much easier (and better for your ratings) to blame everything else for the fact that these people are shitty parents who shouldn’t have children.

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