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17% of US GTA IV shoppers were underage - Nielsen

Children as young as seven able to get hold of the game, according to research

According to research from Nielsen as many as 17 per cent of people that purchased Grand Theft Auto IV in the US were under the legal requirement of 17 years old, with some children as young as seven seemingly able to get hold of a copy of the game.

The title, rated 'M' in the US by the ESRB - and therefore deemed suitable only for people aged 17 and older - seems to suggest a disparity with a recent FTC mystery shopper report that cited stores such as GameStop, Best Buy and Wal-Mart as having improved their ratings enforcement.

But according to Nielsen there's more work to be done in educating parents, particularly, as to the seriousness of the ratings system - a similar problem to that faced in the UK.

"61 per cent of these younger gamers indicated that they purchased the M-rated game themselves, with 39 per cent of the young gamers responding that someone else bought the game for them," said the research, as reported by GameDaily.

"Interestingly enough, parents/guardians were pegged as the biggest facilitators for getting the controversial game into the hands of these young respondents, garnering 80 per cent of the response. Friends, siblings and other relatives rounded out the other 20 per cent of the response."

The report also indicated that the episodic content for GTA IV which will be available to Xbox 360 owners was a factor for people in choosing which format to purchase for.

25 per cent of people cited the DLC, while 64 per cent stated that they just preferred the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3 - although it's not clear which consoles those people owned.

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