OBJECTIVE. To protect minors from exposure to video games with objectionable content (eg, violence and sex), the Pan European Game Information developed a classification system for video games (eg, 18+). We tested the hypothesis that this classification system may actually increase the attractiveness of games for children younger than the age rating.
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS. Participants were 310 Dutch youth. The design was a 3 (age group: 7–8, 12–13, and 16–17 years) × 2 (participant gender) × 7 (label: 7+, 12+, 16+, 18+, violence, no violence, or no label control) × 2 (game description: violent or nonviolent) mixed factorial. The first 2 factors were between subjects, whereas the last 2 factors were within subjects. Three personality traits (ie, reactance, trait aggressiveness, and sensation seeking) were also included in the analyses. Participants read fictitious video game descriptions and rated how much they wanted to play each game.
RESULTS. Results revealed that restrictive age labels and violent-content labels increased the attractiveness of video games for all of the age groups (even 7- to 8-year-olds and girls).
CONCLUSIONS. Although the Pan European Game Information system was developed to protect youth from objectionable content, this system actually makes such games forbidden fruits. Pediatricians should be aware of this forbidden-fruit effect, because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents.