Division of Criminal Justice Services

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December 18, 2007

Errol Cockfield Errol.Cockfield@chamber.state.ny.us
Jennifer Givner Jennifer.Givner@chamber.state.ny.us


John Caher John.Caher@dcjs.ny.gov


Public Awareness Campaign Informs Parents and Educators about
Dangerous Video Games

As part of Governor Eliot Spitzer’s agenda to improve the lives of New York’s children, the New York State Division of Criminal Justices Services (DCJS) unveiled a presentation today titled “Video Games and Children: Virtual Playground vs. Danger Zone.” The 20-minute presentation is designed to assist parents in making informed decisions about the video games they allow their children to play.

The presentation was given to a group of parents, educators and children’s advocates at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Rensselaer County, but also is available online at DCJS’ website, www.criminaljustice.ny.gov.

“Protecting our children from violent video games that contain adult themes is a key priority for my administration,” said Governor Spitzer. “I commend the staff of the DCJS and Commissioner Denise O’Donnell for taking a leadership role in this effort by reaching out to parents and educators to engage them in this important dialogue. This presentation gives parents and educators the information they need to make smart decisions about the games their children play.”

The presentation explores research on the topic of violent games, outlines risks, and provides parents with 10 tips to remember when purchasing games for their children. It also provides a primer on video game history and features video game content ranging from “Pong” in the 1970s to the violent games being sold today.  In addition, the video establishes guidelines for their children’s play, including:

  • Checking a game’s rating and reading the description, or renting a game to preview it, before purchase.

  • Setting reasonable time limits and ensuring that children respect them.
  • Discussing a game’s content and explaining why you object to certain games.

This public outreach program is in addition to the Governor’s proposed legislation that would prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors, require certain labeling and parental controls on such games, and establish an advisory council to study the issue.

 “With more than 5,000 game titles available, some of which contain graphic violence, sexual themes and adult content, parents should be cautious and remain vigilant when selecting video games, said Denise E. O’Donnell, Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Assistant Secretary for Criminal Justice. “This presentation provides parents with guidance, resources and tips in choosing age-appropriate games for their children.”

Mindy A. Bockstein, Chairperson and Executive Director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) said: “Recently released studies and statistics serve as a reminder to parents that video games have shifted from themes of saving princesses to the arena of violence. According to a poll recently released in a report by the National Institute on Media and the Family, 86 percent of children play video games in their homes, and 72 percent of parents know little or nothing about the video ratings system.

“This multi-billion dollar industry is making a huge profit by target marketing their products to vulnerable youth. I applaud the efforts of Governor Spitzer and DCJS, and, while we take steps to try to protect children from exposure to and interaction with violent video games that are flooding the marketplace, I encourage parents to use our new tool “Video Wise: Be in Tune with Youth Gaming” – available on our website at: www.nysconsumer.gov - to become more proactive about monitoring video games,” Bockstein added.

The New York State PTA has a brochure on video game safety, titled “Some video games are for kids. Some aren’t.” Copies in English and Spanish are available through the National PTA website (www.pta.org).

“The New York State PTA applauds the Governor’s efforts to raise awareness of the potential dangers posed by some video games,” said Maria DeWald, president of statewide PTA. “Our membership has conducted research, adopted resolutions and devoted resources at both the state and national levels to raise awareness of the dangers associated with developing technology, and the need to work with collaborating partners and others to advocate for the protection of children and youth.”

Timothy G. Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association said: “The New York State School Boards Association supports efforts to reduce children's exposure to violence. We urge parents to learn as much as possible about the ratings and content associated with the video games their children are playing.”

DCJS’ Missing and Exploited Children Clearinghouse (MECC) created the 20-minute presentation. MECC was established in 1987 and provides investigative support services and training for law enforcement, assistance to family members of missing children and free community education programs for parents, educators, schools and civic organizations. Officials from the National Institute of Justice, the research, development and evaluation agency of the US Justice Department have agreed to distribute the presentation nationally.

“Video Games and Children: Virtual Playground or Danger Zone” is the third in a series of presentations developed by MECC staff designed to educate parents, school officials, law enforcement and children about staying safe in an electronic age. The others are:

  • Internet Safety for Middle and High School Students, which focuses on online safety rules for teens. It features real-life missing children cases; videos of children talking about their experience with online enticements and consequences of risky behavior; and a demonstration of safety mistakes on MySpace.
  • Internet Safety: A Parent’s Guide to the Internet, and Internet Safety: A Teacher’s Guide to the Internet, both of which address the dangers children can face every time they go online. It features safety tips and rules for children, as well as a demonstration on how to set parental controls.

In the past two years, more than 8,500 people across the state have attended approximately 110 Internet safety presentations. MECC staff members are available to make presentations across the state about video games and Internet safety to parents, teachers and community groups. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 1-800-FIND-KID (1-800-346-3543) or send an email to MissingChildren@dcjs.ny.gov.

The presentation is posted to the DCJS website (visit www.criminaljustice.ny.gov and check out “What’s New”).


DCJS is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.