Keeping children away from violent forms of entertainment is first of all a parental responsibility. That's never been truer than today, when so much objectionable material is available right at home, on TV or via the computer.
But government has a role to play. It can push industry to adopt credible rating systems, and it can, to the degree possible, strengthen and enforce laws against distributing these products to minors.
Consider the ordinance recently enacted by Indianapolis. The mayor and council of that Midwestern city had enough of young children playing shoot-'em-up video games in arcades located in shopping malls and other public places. They decided to require that violent games be physically separated from more benign fare. And anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent in order to play the adult-rated games.
This law won't be easy to enforce - any more than laws prohibiting minors from buying alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets. But it's a socially responsible step. It should stand up to constitutional scrutiny.
While Indianapolis is breaking new ground in the United States, British Columbia is drafting a law to ban the rental of violent video games and movie videos to anyone under 18. The Canadian province just outlawed the rental to minors of a popular, but particularly violent, game, "Soldier of Fortune."
Such moves by government help put an "unacceptable" label on forms of entertainment linked by some researchers to actual violence by youths.
But the crucial line between what's acceptable and what's not is drawn at home. It may be hard, but parents should persist in setting and enforcing their own rules. With that backing, official steps are more likely to work.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society