Understanding Video Game Ratings
The best way to ensure that your kids are experiencing appropriate media is to literally watch everything that they watch. But most parents don’t have the time or the patience to watch every TV show, play every video game, or see every movie that their kids do. That’s why many media have a ratings system in place; however, not every rating system is the same, and they can be cryptic if you don’t already understand what they mean.
Video Game Ratings
- The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is the organization that rates video games. Game publishers submit a detailed survey and videotaped footage of content and representative samples to the ratings board, and three trained raters recommend a rating and content descriptors they believe are most appropriate.
- Titles rated “early childhood” (EC) have content suitable for children ages 3 and older and do not contain any material that parents would find inappropriate.
- Games rated “everyone” (E) have content suitable for persons ages 6 and older. These titles will appeal to people of many ages and tastes. They may contain minimal violence, some comic mischief, or crude language.
- The “everyone 10 and older” (EC10) rating is given to games that 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.
- Video games rated “teen” (T) have content suitable for persons ages 13 and older. TItles in this category may contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
- “Mature” (M)-rated games have content suitable for persons ages 17 and older. These products may introduce more intense violence or language than products in the teen category.
- Titles rated “adults only” (AO) have content suitable only for adults. These games may contain graphic depictions of sex and/or violence. Adults-only products are not intended to be sold or rented to anyone under the age of 18.
- It’s important to note that the ESRB is owned and operated by the industry that it is supposed to regulate. It’s still important to be observant of what your child is playing, and to spend some time watching her play a game before you make the final decision that it’s okay for her to play.
Video game ratings may seem like a secret code that you’re not in on, but once you’ve read the key, they get much easier to decipher. Use these ratings to help you decide which games are suitable for your child, but you have the final say on what your child should or shouldn’t be seeing.
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Dr. David Walsh is the founder of National Institute on Media and the Family, a nationally recognized expert on brain development, and an authority on media.
• Set ground rules. Ask: how much? When? Where?
• Have consequences for breaking rules. Follow through on them!
• Follow the video game ratings guide.