So the Nielsen company is at it again. They surveyed 6,000 gamers, and discovered that 17% of Grand Theft Auto IV players were underage, in the 7-16 year-old group.

A fair number – 61% – apparently bought the game themselves, with little or no trouble. Of those who didn’t buy GTA IV themselves, about 80% had a parent or guardian buy it instead.

We can just see the scare headlines coming about this one, however accurate (or inaccurate) the survey. Still, it is troubling that some of these kids received the game from adults, who ought to know better.

GTA IV is clearly marked “M” on the box. Supposedly, previous surveys by the ESRB and other groups showed that a good portion of parents are aware of the ratings and what they mean.

So we have to wonder what’s going on here. After all, GTA IV has been in the news a lot, one way and another. And that news hasn’t been positive, either; the media are infamous in this regard.

Of course, we don’t know the actual numbers here, just percentages. And we don’t know exactly how the survey was conducted, how honest the answers were, and for that matter, how the questions were framed. Personally, I view all surveys with a fair amount of suspicion at best.

Nonetheless, it does seem evident that parents are buying “mature” games for their kids. And that doesn’t do the game industry much good when the media is always looking to enlarge their witchhunting.

17 percent of GTAIV purchasers underage on Gamespot