Understanding ESRB Ratings

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) is a non-profit organization that assigns computer and video game content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.  The ESRB was started so consumers, especially parents, could make informed purchasing decisions.

The ESRB Rating is made up of two equally important parts:  Rating Symbol and Content Descriptors.  This two-part approach provides parents with a more granular understanding of the games they might buy and the ones their kids are playing – online and off.

image source: http://www.esrb.org

Ratings Symbols

Rating Symbols appear on the front of the game box.  These symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game.  The following is a description for each Rating Symbol.

EC (Early Childhood).  These games are for children 3 and older.  When reviewed, parents found no unsuitable content for children.

E (Everyone). These games are for children 6 years of age or older.  May contain mild violence or mild language.

E10+ (Everyone 10 and older). These games are appropriate for children 10 years or older.  May contain mild violence, mild language or minimal suggestive themes.

T (Teen). These games are suitable for children 13 years or older.  They may contain violence, suggestive language, gambling, and/or use of strong language .

M (Mature). These games are for children 17 years or older.  They may contain blood, gore, extreme violence and language, and/or sexual content.

AO (Adults Only). These games are for persons 18 years or older.  They include prolonged scenes of violence, strong sexual content and nudity.

RP (Rating Pending). This symbol is when a game is awaiting rating.  Only seen in advertising prior to game being released.

Important Note: Even if a game has been rated for younger kids, players may still have the ability to chat online with other gamers during game-play.  Be sure to check out all game options and all privacy settings when your child wants to try out a new game.

Content Descriptors

Content Descriptors appear on the back of a video game next to the rating symbol and often in the footer of an online game’s website.  These descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.  There are 30 unique descriptors including, “Animated Blood”, “Crude Humor”, “Intense Violence”, “Strong Lyrics” and “Use of Tobacco”.

So next time your child asks you to pick up a new game, flip the game over and look for the rating.  If they want to play an online game, check out the website first to make sure the site is following industry standards to help you protect your child.  If there is no ESRB Rating, you might want to consider a different game.  ESRB Ratings make it easy for you to make an informed decision about the age-appropriateness of the game for your child.

To learn more about ESRB Ratings, visit www.esrb.org.

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Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and predators. He co-founded KidSafe, is the author of Keeping Kids Safe: A Guide for Parents of Social and Mobile Children and is a frequent public speaker on the topic.

Copyright © 2009 Tim Woda

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Categories: Gaming, General


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