Parents who aren’t sure whether to let their children watch a specific television program have a handy tool that will help them gauge the levels of sex, violence and profanity in a TV show. It’s called TV Parental Guidelines, and it’s similar to the ratings used in the movie industry. Channels show the ratings at the start of a program for about 15 seconds. They are also listed in the TV Guide and other local TV listing magazines. Remember that these ratings are not used for sports or news programs, which often have their own peculiar kind of violence or other inappropriate content.
- The first rating is TV-G, or General Audience. A TV show that is rated TV-G is appropriate for all ages, whether live-action or animated. An example would be “Sesame Street”, which has no violence, strong language or sexual content.
- The next rating is TV-PG, or Parental Guidance Suggested. Parents of younger children may find this program to be kid-unfriendly. It may contain themes that appeal to older children, minor levels of violence, minor sexual content, strong language or suggestive dialogue. An example of a TV-PG show would be “Friends”, which may be a little too much for younger kids due to sexual induendo, but which most parents would find appropriate for older children.
- After that comes TV-14, or Parents are Strongly Cautioned. A TV-14 program contains material that most parents would not like a child under age 14 to see. That includes intense violence, sexual content, strong language or intensely suggestive dialogue. Many police procedurals, such as “CSI” or “Law and Order”, are good examples of TV-14 programs, in that they often contain scenes of murder and suggestive dialogue.
- The highest rating is TV-MA, or Mature Audience. A TV-MA show may be unsuitable for children under age 17. It probably has high doses of graphic violence, strong sexual content and crude language. An example of a TV-MA show is the critically-rated “The Sopranos”, which some adults even find too intense to watch.
Parents should keep in mind that although the rating system is a good way to pre-judge television programs for children, the only way to be absolutely sure your child is seeing what you want them to see is to watch TV with them. Don’t use television as a babysitter, and be prepared to discuss programs with your children if they have questions. Also, too much television at an early age can affect your child’s brain development. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children under the age of 2 should watch no TV at all.