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Vol. 24: This Issue

Ninth Annual Video Game Report Card Released in Washington, DC

Video Game Report Card Institute President David Walsh, Ph.D., joined by Senator Joe Lieberman and Congresswoman Betty McCollum, released the Ninth Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card in Washington, DC just before Thanksgiving, 2004. This year’s MediaWise Video Game Report Card focuses on the mixed messages the video game industry sends to parents.

“The double messages sent to parents about video games are double trouble,” said Dr. Walsh. “For instance, the video game industry says parents should use the ratings, but denies violent video games affect children. The result is parents are lead to believe the ratings don’t really matter.”

“This contradictory message is a big problem for parents when you consider this year’s crop of games, such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Leisure Suit Larry, are accessible to children, and they drastically push the envelope on sex and violence.”

Dr. Walsh also called attention to the results of this year’s secret shopper survey. Last year, the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association announced that, by this shopping season, they would enforce policies restricting youth access to M-rated video games without parental permission. However, the Institute’s secret shopper survey found that boys as young as seven were able to buy M-rated games 50 percent of the time, whereas girls were only able to purchase games 8 percent of the time.

“The double message to parents of young children from video game retailers is we will enforce the ratings, but only for your daughters, not your sons,” said Dr. Walsh.

Video GamesOther areas of special concern in the Ninth Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card include: adolescent brain development; video games and the childhood obesity epidemic; and the need for the ESRB to improve its “OK to Play” education campaign. Similar to previous years, the Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card also provides parents a list of recommended video games and games to avoid.
Pediatricians See Media Use Linked to
Serious Public Health Issues

On November 1, 2004 the National Institute on Media and the Family released a new study that shows most pediatricians believe excess media use negatively affects children in many different areas, including aggressive behavior, poor eating habits, decreased physical activity, a greater risk for obesity, and poor academic achievement. The study also finds that most pediatricians are familiar with and agree with the three major recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on children’s media use. Pediatricians do provide all three recommendations to parents at least sometimes, and most pediatricians reported that their efforts were at least a little effective, although they cite lack of parent support for the recommendations as the largest barrier they face.

The three major AAP recommendations on children’s media use are: 1. Parents should discourage television viewing for children under two years old and should encourage more interactive activities that promote proper brain development; 2. Parents should limit children’s media time to no more than one to two hours of quality programming per day for older children; and 3. Parents should monitor programming; view with their children and adolescents; and encourage alternative forms of entertainment.

“This study shows that pediatricians understand the power of the media to affect children’s development, and that paying attention to how much and what types of media children use can have life-long consequences”, said Douglas Gentile, Ph.D., director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family, psychology professor at Iowa State University, and the study’s lead author.

Watch for the New MediaWise PSA!

The National Institute on Media and the Family is very grateful to Martin|Williams, a Minneapolis-based advertising firm, for their contribution to MediaWise. Martin|William produced a public service announcement that was released in conjunction with the Ninth Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card on November 23, 2004. To help parents get the right message about video games, the new MediaWise public service announcement encourages parents to “Watch What their Kids Watch.” The public service announcement also directs parents to the National Institute on Media and the Family’s Web site, The site provides parents with important information about the media and helps them make MediaWise choices for kids.
New Workshops Available

WorkshopsDr. Walsh is shown below in Woodbury, Minnesota, where he spoke to several hundred parents about changes in teens’ brains and how to use this information to understand, communicate with, and stay connected to their kids. Dr. Walsh’s latest workshops are based upon WHY Do They Act That Way?

To schedule a workshop, please contact Gwen Aaberg of the National Institute on Media and the Family at 1-888-672-5437 or 612-672-5437.

WHY Do They Act That Way? Update

Why Do They Act That Way?Dr. Walsh’s latest book, WHY Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen (Free Press, 2004) is among the top five 2004 “Editors’ Picks” for parenting and families on Now in its eighth printing, WHY Do They Act That Way? has also appeared in the Star Tribune’s nonfiction bestsellers list.

Dr. Walsh first previewed WHY Do They Act That Way? in August on CBS’s The Early Show. He also appeared on The Jane Pauley Show in October, serving as Jane’s guest expert throughout the hour-long program entitled “What Parents Need to Know.”

For more information about WHY Do They Act That Way?, please visit

Media Myths

Media Myth #2:
Media violence affects everyone the same way

The Truth: Media violence has many scientifically documented effects

The Evidence: Although more than 14 different types of effects have been documented with children and adults, they can be reduced to four broad effects. They have been called the:
  1. Aggressor Effect: Watching a lot of violent entertainment media causes increased meanness, aggression, and even violence toward others.
  2. Victim Effect: Watching a lot of violent entertainment causes increased fearfulness, mistrust, and self-protective behavior.
  3. Bystander Effect: Watching a lot of violent entertainment causes increased desensitization, callousness, and apathy toward victims of aggression
  4. Appetite Effect: Watching a lot of violent entertainment causes increased self-initiated behaviors to see more violent material
The health-care and scientific communities have stated that the evidence is clear that media violence has real effects. That is no longer the question. The question now is in what way will any given individual be affected? The four effects above show that media violence can have many different effects.

MediaWise Speaker Spotlight:
Michael Mann

Michael Mann is an award-winning storyteller, bringing a variety of educational programs and workshops to children and adults in schools, churches, libraries, educational conferences, and corporate settings throughout the upper Midwest. Mike originally became involved in the National Institute on Media and the Family as a media rater for the MediaWise™ KidScore® program and has been an active advocate of the Institute's mission since 1997.

Mike's extensive storytelling experience creates an engaging environment for adults and children on subjects ranging from creative writing and storytelling to the MediaWise program. Mike performs before more than 15,000 children and adults each year, and has appeared on Channel 9's Good Morning Minnesota and KARE 11. He also participated in the panel discussion involving parents and educators led by Dr. David Walsh on TPT2 after the 9/11 attacks.

Mike and his wife, Vicki, live in Minneapolis and have four children, Jennifer, Laura, John, and Tim, and a grandson, Jackson.

To see a calendar of Mike’s upcoming MediaWise presentations, please visit:

Concerned about how media violence and disrespect affects your family?

What: Support the important work of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

Why: Kids need your help. The Institute is a nonprofit organization. Your gift helps us help parents and educators help children.

How: Send your tax-deductable gift to:

National Institute on Media and the Family
Riverside Professional Building
606 24th Ave. South, Suite 606
Minneapolis, MN 55454-1438

Who: YOU can make a difference for our children.

Also: How you can help.



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