The video-game rating system restricting the sale of violent games to minors has not been applied correctly in the United States, where teenagers can easily buy them in stores, a family group said Tuesday.
In its annual survey, the National Institute on Media and the Family reported that only 55 percent of retailers efectivaly banned the sale of mature, or "M" rated videogames to children under 17.
In 50 percent of the cases, a youth can purchase an M-rated videogame with nobody at the cash register taking notice, the institute said.
The 2007 survey showed that 12-year-old buyers who sought M-rated video games such as "Grand Theft Auto" or "Scarface" were able to purchase them half the time, and 15-year-olds, two-thirds of the time.
The study found that one of the reasons for the lax ratings enforcement was the age of the clerk, with older clerks being more compliant with store policies than younger clerks.
"In conclusion, this year's rating enforcement survey is discouraging," the institute said in its report.
"Any parent who is paying attention cannot help but question the credibility of a ratings system employed by an industry that seems more eager to circumvent it," it added.
The August survey of 1,360 children found that 86 percent of minors play video games in their homes in the United States.
It also found that 72 percent of parents know little or nothing about the rating system overall, and many cannot not identify the meanings of specific ratings such as AO (Adults Only) and EC (Early Childhood).
It also found that video games were the source of arguments, in 38 percent of families, between parents and children about the time spent playing.