TV & Video Game Ratings (Family Safety)
To assist parents in determining what content their children are allowed to see, programs today use the following rating system:
- TV-Y, (All Children) found only in children's shows, means that the show is appropriate for all children;
- TV-7, (Directed to Older Children) found only in children's shows, means that the show is most appropriate for children age 7 and up;
- TV-G (General Audience) means that the show is suitable for all ages but is not necessarily a children's show;
- TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) means that parental guidance is suggested and that the show may be unsuitable for younger children (this rating may also include a V for violence, S for sexual situations, L for language, or D for suggestive dialog);
- TV-14 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) means that the show may be unsuitable for children under 14 (V, S, L, or D may accompany a rating of TV-14); and
- TV-MA (Mature Audience Only) means that the show is for mature audiences only and may be unsuitable for children under 17 (V, S, L, or D may accompany a rating of TV-MA).
These ratings are useful from a technology perspective, as they are embedded in the program, itself and allow parental control applications to read the rating and either block or allow access to that content based on the rating. Most televisions today, as well as cable and satellite providers, provide a way for parents to lock out shows based on their rating. None of the Internet content filters on the market today support these ratings, but it is most likely will not be long before they do.
The game market also has a rating system, called the “Entertainment Software Rating Board” system, or ESRB. These ratings are given to software games that you install onto your computer or run in a game console like a Nintendo, Playstation, or Xbox. Many of the filters available for your computer can block games based on ESRB rating and most game consoles come with this ability built in. Game rental and sales stores are not supposed to sell or rent teen or mature games to children, but quite often they do, so you cannot assume that any game your children bring home is rated appropriately for their age group. Enforcing the ESRB rating on your computer and game console is really the best way to ensure that your children have access only to those games that are appropriate for their age group.
The ESRB ratings are as follows:
- EARLY CHILDHOOD
- Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
- Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
- EVERYONE 10+
- Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
- Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
- Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
- ADULTS ONLY
- Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
- RATING PENDING
- Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)
To setup parental controls on games console look for the information on the consoles support site.
Keep in mind that most modern game consoles can also have apps installed on them like Netflix and Hulu which allows streaming of TV and movies.
For more information, see the ESRB ratings website.
- Video game content rating system, Wikipedia - includes a comparison of currently active game rating systems around the world.