Although they are intended to help parents ensure their children play only age-appropriate material, video game content ratings actually increase the attractiveness of mature content to minors, a new survey claims.
Reaching a conclusion that will surprise approximately zero percent of those who ever attempted to sneak into an R-rated film, a team of researchers from VU University Amsterdam and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor determined that the the PEGI rating system used in Europe "makes [restricted] games forbidden fruits" for children.
The Pan European Game Information system is analogous to North America's Entertainment Ratings Software Board, assigning general age ratings to games alongside more specific content descriptors.
Over 300 Dutch youth, stratified by both age and gender, participated in the survey. The participants were given fictional game synopses and ratings, and asked about their desire to play each.
Notably, more restrictive ratings made games more attractive to every age and gender group of children -- including 7- to 8-year-olds.
"Pediatricians should be aware of this forbidden-fruit effect, because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents," warns the report, for which a synopsis
is available online.