Library Board Tries Different Approach In Addressing Children’s Use of Violent Video Games
Sunday, March 3, 2013 • 7:38pm
PATERSON, NJ – After coming under criticism from an anti-censorship group, the Paterson Free Public Library has changed its strategy for keeping youths from playing violent video games on its computers.
Instead of targeting only the direct-shooter video games, the library board last Wednesday decided to place a more restrictive electronic filter on the computer access provided to youths in the sixth grade and lower. By switching the filter for younger children from Level 5 to Level 6, the board will block their access to all computer games as well as other content , including internet radio, web-based email, online auctions, and self-defense pages.
As a member of PALs Plus, a consortium of 19 public and academic libraries in Passaic and Essex counties, the Paterson library already has a filtering system that, for example, prevents all computer users from gaining access to child pornography. By simply shifting the younger patrons to a more restrictive filter, library officials seem to be avoiding targeting one particular type of content.
Under the filtering system, parents have the option of allowing their children to be placed on a level that has fewer restrictions on access to content.
In January, library officials had said they banned children from playing violent video games on library computers to protect them from what they saw as a negative influence. But officials later said they had not yet taken a formal vote on the ban.
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter attended the library meeting to express the local chapter of the NAACP’s support of whatever the board could do to limit children’s access to violent games. Sumter is the first vice president of the Paterson NAACP.
The National Coalition Against Censorship, which sent city officials a letter objecting to the ban on direct-shooter games, remained critical of the library board’s decision.
“The library is going beyond what the law requires in their role as custodians of information,’’ said Acacia O’Connor, the coalition’s coordinator for its Kids Right to Read project. “Ramping up what gets filtered and for whom ignores differences in maturity levels and what certain parents might allow their child to do or see.’’
“In the end (it) means that kids are deprived access to perfectly legal, useful, educational information and entertainment on the web,’’ she added. “It appears to be an unfortunately far-reaching but clever screen to disguise their earlier attempts to single out and ban video games.”