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Sen. Clinton: Feds must help parents on video games

Hillary Clinton, a longtime critic of video games, calls on the government to do more to find out how electronic media may harm kids.

WASHINGTON--The federal government needs to step in to ensure that electronic media including video games isn't harming children's development, Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

To that end, the New York senator said she's pushing for approval of federally funded research into the broad effects of media--everything from television to video games to the Internet--on children. A bill chiefly sponsored by Clinton and Connecticut Democrat Joseph Lieberman contains such a proposal and received unanimous support from a Senate committee earlier this year.

Speaking at an event here organized by the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank, Clinton dismissed critics who have questioned the need for such a project and its cost to taxpayers.

"We don't know the effects," Clinton said. "Never have children been raised in such a media-saturated environment. How do we get more research, better facts and evidence?"

Unless Congress acts, the parenting experience will be nothing more than a "great experiment on our children," she said. "I'd like to have a little more reassurance that it's going to turn out all right."

A longtime foe of violent and sex-themed video games, Clinton said she's also hoping that Congress will pass another bill co-authored with Lieberman that would impose fines on businesses that sell or rent video games with a "mature," "adults only" or "ratings pending" tag to anyone under age 17.

Clinton's call for more government involvement in family lives is hardly new. Her 1996 book, "It Takes a Village" drew fire from conservatives--and a response in the form of a book called "It Takes a Family" written by Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Clinton's office also released on Wednesday a one-page, downloadable "media guide" for parents. It spells out definitions for the ratings systems used by TV shows and video games and gives a brief rundown of technological parental controls available on video game consoles, televisions and services like TiVo.

"Obviously parents are on the front line, but a lot of them need help," Clinton said.

Clinton's remarks on Wednesday came just hours before the U.S. House of Representatives voted 379-35 to approve legislation that would impose a tenfold hike in indecency fines on broadcast TV operators--from $32,500 to $325,000. The Senate had approved the same legislation in May, so it now awaits President Bush's signature, which is expected.

The Parents Television Council, a nonprofit advocacy organization with more than a million members, was quick to applaud that move. Families are "fed up with the sexually raunchy and gratuitously violent content that's broadcast over the public airwaves, particularly during hours when millions of children are in the viewing audience," Brent Bozell, president of the council, said in a statement.

It doesn't look like politicians' scrutiny of media will be slowing down anytime soon. A subset of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to consider approaches to controlling access to violent and explicit video games at a hearing scheduled for June 14.