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How can I learn about and remember the (ESRB) video game ratings?

ESRB stands for the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most video games have an ESRB age rating category on the front of the package. These ratings are a little bit like the more familiar ratings we find on every motion picture, (for example, you know that if a movie is rated “G,” even your youngest child can watch it safely).  Ratings can be extremely helpful in choosing the right games for your kids, but some research has shown that few parents know about these ratings, and of those who do, they have trouble remembering what it all means! 

While this is only the first step in understanding and remembering the ratings, below is a quick guide to the basic ratings.

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.

EVERYONE
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.

TEEN
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.

MATURE
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.)

Printing out this guide and posting it on the fridge might help everyone in the family become more familiar with video game ratings and remind everyone how important they are. You might even consider printing out the rating guide as a cheat sheet to take with you to the video game store!

Another thing you might want to know about are the content descriptors found on the back of most video game packages. These are short words and phrases that indicate the type of content that may have triggered the rating assigned or may be of interest or concern to you. For example, you might be likely to find a content descriptor of “Blood and Gore” on a game rated Mature.

For more information on video games ratings and a newer, more detailed tool called rating summaries, visit www.esrb.org and see the article called “Know What’s in the Game” by Pat Vance.