These ratings are assigned to television programs by the network that airs them. The PTC has compiled research on the age-based ratings system for television and has determined it is a failure. There is no inter-network consistency in the ratings. Worse, there is not even intra-network consistency.
In short, the age-based system, which the television industry promised would help inform and assist parents in choosing appropriate shows for their children, is making such a determination more confusing than ever before.
The Content Labels
One or more letters may be added to the basic rating to indicate that a show contains higher levels of violence, sex, adult language or suggestive dialogue:
V - violence
S - sexual situations
L - coarse or crude indecent language
D - suggestive dialogue (usually means talk about sex)
FV - fantasy violence
This program is designed to be appropriate for all children. Whether animated or live action, the themes and elements in this program are specifically designed for a very young audience, including children from ages 2-6. This program is not expected to frighten younger children.
What you need to know: Not all TV-Y shows are violence-free. Some shows with cartoon violence are rated TV-Y, such as the "Road Runner" cartoons. There is no content rating to let you know if a TV-Y show contains violence.
Directed to Older Children
This program is designed for children age 7 and above. It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children.
What you need to know: TV-Y7 shows that contain a lot of fantasy violence are supposed to be labeled with the "FV" rating. But even some TV-Y7 shows without the FV label may contain fantasy or comedic violence that could be of concern to some parents, although it is usually much milder than in those shows with the FV rating.
Directed to Older Children-Fantasy Violence
For those programs where fantasy violence may be more intense or more combative than other programs in the TV-Y7 category, such programs will be designated TV-Y7-FV.
What you need to know: A TV-Y7-FV rating indicates a program that may contain some of all of the following characteristics: violence as a prevalent feature of the program; fighting presented in an exciting-even thrilling-way; villains and superheros valued for their combat abilities; violent acts glorified; and violence depicted as an acceptable and even effective solution to a problem. Fantasy violence may be part of an animated cartoon, a live-action show, or a program that combines both animation and live-action.
Most parents would find this program appropriate for all ages. Although this rating does not signify a program designed specifically for children, most parents may let younger children watch this program unattended. It contains little or no violence, no strong language, and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.
What you need to know: Most TV-G shows don't contain any sex, violence, or adult language at all. Those that do have such content are usually mild. There are no content ratings used on TV-G shows to let you know if they do contain such content.
Parental Guidance Suggested
This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children. The theme itself may call for parental guidance and/or the program contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), infrequent coarse language (L), or some suggestive dialogue (D).
What you need to know: Many TV-PG shows do contain moderate levels of sexual dialogue or violence, and not all of them are labeled with the content ratings. TV-PG shows with higher levels of sex, violence or adult language are usually labeled with content labels.
Parents Strongly Cautioned
This program contains some material that parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L), or intensely suggestive dialogue (D).
What you need to know: Most TV-14 shows contain sex, violence or adult language. Not all of those shows are labeled with the content descriptors. TV-14 shows with the highest levels of sex, violence or adult language are usually labeled with the content ratings. A TV-14 rating without content labels may also indicate a program with a mature theme.
Mature Audience Only
This program is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S), or crude indecent language (L).
What you need to know: Very few shows are labeled TV-MA.
(Language taken directly from The V-Chip Education Project's "Parents Guide to the TV Ratings and V-Chip")
For more information, visit www.tvguidelines.org.
You should also know… "The age-based ratings system for television is a failure. There is no inter-network consistency in the ratings. Worse, there is not even intra-network consistency. In short, the age-based system, which the television industry promised would help inform and assist parents in choosing appropriate shows for their children, is making such a determination more confusing than ever before. Read More…
"In spite of widespread viewer displeasure with foul-mouthed, sexually-oriented television programming, the networks have not reduced the amount of objectionable content. Instead, they adopted a ratings system that supposedly would help parents steer their children away from raunchy or otherwise adult fare. The original system, implemented in January 1997, included only age-based ratings; after those were roundly denounced as vague and ineffective, content ratings were added in October.
But the ratings system, even with its expanded, "improved" content version, continues to fail. In practice, the ratings remain meaningless. Read More…
"Before the system took effect, some-including Parents Television Council Founder and President, Brent Bozell-publicly predicted that the ratings system would backfire. Specifically, producers would insert edgier content into their shows and justify insertions by pointing out that attached ratings warned the audience it was coming. Did that happen? Is prime time raunchier than before the ratings system was adopted? PTC analysts found that it is more offensive than ever. Read More…
"A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that half of all parents with children ages 2-17 (54%) say they are using the ratings to help guide their children's viewing, and 45% say they have stopped at least one of their children from watching a particular show because of its rating. But more than eight out of ten parents who use the ratings say that improvements could be made to make the ratings more useful, and many do not have a good understanding of how the current system works. The majority of parents surveyed were unaware that the television industry rates itself. Read More…
"A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that content descriptors are not being used on the vast majority of general audience shows containing sex, violence, or adult language. Children's programs also contain a significant amount of violence, most of which is not indicated by a FV content descriptor. Read More…
These ratings are assigned to films by the "independent" rating board, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Despite the familiarity with this system, parents continue to have complaints about how movie ratings are assigned and the overall design of the ratings system.
All ages admitted.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTED
Some material may not be suitable for children.
PARENTS STRONGLY CAUTIONED
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NO ONE 17 AND UNDER ADMITTED
For more information, visit www.mpaa.org.
You should know…
"Despite familiarity with the system, parents continue to have complaints about how movie ratings are assigned and the overall design of the ratings system. "(A Validity Test of Movie, Television, and Video-Game Ratings, Dr. David A. Walsh and Dr. Douglas A. Gentile, Published in Pediatrics, Vol. 107, No. 6, June 2001.)
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings are designed to provide information about video and computer game content, so you can make informed purchase decisions. ESRB ratings have two parts: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game, and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. To take full advantage of the ESRB rating system, it's important to check both the rating symbol (on the front of the game box) and the content descriptors (on the back of the game box).
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 persons ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal violence, some comic mischief and/or mild language.
Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for persons 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 17 years and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
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.
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.)
ESRB Content Descriptors
• Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
• Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
• Blood - Depictions of blood
• Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
• Cartoon Violence – Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
• Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
• Crude Humor – Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
• Drug Reference - Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
• Fantasy Violence – Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
• Intense Violence – Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death
• Language – Mild to moderate use of profanity
• Lyrics – Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music
• Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references
• Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
• Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
• Real Gambling – Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
• Sexual Content – Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity.
• Sexual Themes – References to sex or sexuality
• Sexual Violence – Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
• Simulated Gambling – Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
• Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
• Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music
• Strong Sexual Content – Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity.
• Suggestive Themes - Mild provocative references or materials
• Tobacco Reference - Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
• Use of Drugs - The consumption or use of illegal drugs
• Use of Alcohol - The consumption of alcoholic beverages
• Use of Tobacco - The consumption of tobacco products
• Violence - Scenes involving agressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
• Violent References - References to violent acts
When a content descriptor is preceded by the term 'Mild', it conveys low frequency, intensity or severity of the content it modifies.
Online Rating Notice
Online-enabled games carry the notice “Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB.” This notice warns those who intend to play the game online about possible exposure to chat (text, audio, video) or other types of content created by other players (e.g., maps, skins) that have not been considered in the ESRB rating assignment.
For the most up to date list of content descriptors and definitions, go to http://www.esrb.org
About Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that independently assigns ratings, enforces advertising guidelines, and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.
(content and graphics taken straight from ESRB on 3/31/08)
You should know…
• 90% of teenagers say that their parents never check the video game ratings before allowing them to rent or buy computer or video games. (Walsh, et al.)
• ~66% of gamers are over 18 and the average age of a game player is 29 years old (ESA) thus videogames aren't made just for kids anymore. Be sure to check the rating before buying/renting a game for your child.
• Of all games sold in 2003: 54% were rated Everyone (E). 30.5% were rated Teen (T). 11.9% were rated Mature (M).
• Two studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on April 23, 2000 confirmed that violent video games negatively affect behavior. One study demonstrated that graphically violent video games produce an immediate increase in aggressive thoughts and behavior. The other study found that violent game play not only increased aggressive behavior, but produced a long-term, real-life impact on the behavior and relationships of the players. ► more
Since 1985, the RIAA has labeled music releases containing explicit lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence and sex, with a parental advisory so parents can determine whether that album is appropriate for their child.
The RIAA created and administers the Parental Advisory program. Individual record companies decide which releases should be labeled.
Many retailers have in-store policies forbidding the sale of records containing the Parental Advisory Label to those younger than 18, though selling such records to minors is not unlawful. Policies regarding the sale of stickered records are made at the retail-level.
For more information, visit www.riaa.org or www.narm.com.