How to Use the TV Ratings

This article is part 2 of 4 in a series on
Kids & TV

  • Taming TV: Has Television Gotten Worse?

  • How to Use the TV Ratings

  • The Effects of Seeing TV Violence

  • Parents' Role as Media Filters

  • With children now watching an average of four hours of TV each day, parents have their work cut out for them if they want to minimize the influence of inappropriate content, especially violence, on their kids' behavior.

    By Deirdre Wilson

    The Federal Communications Commission created parental guidance ratings in 1997. Broadcast and cable networks voluntarily participate, assigning ratings to the programs they show.

    A monitoring board of TV industry experts works to ensure that the ratings are appropriate, updated and consistent.

    The ratings appear in the upper left-hand corner of your TV screen at the beginning of each show, and in the TV schedules printed in many newspapers.

    If you own a TV set equipped with the V-Chip, you can program your set to block out shows carrying ratings that you consider inappropriate for your kids.

    Check your TV's on-screen menu options or the owner's manual for instructions.

    The TV Rating Icons: What they mean...

    For All Children - Appropriate for all kids, although the content is designed for very young children (ages 2 to 6).
    For Older Children - Intended for kids 7 and up; better for children who can distinguish between make-believe and reality. Content may include mild fantasy or humorous violence. May frighten children under age 7.
    For Older Children / Fantasy Violence - Fantasy violence in the content may be more intense than in programs with the TV-Y7 rating.
    For General Audience - Appropriate for all ages. Contains little or no violence, no profanity and little or no sexual content. The rating doesn't mean the program is specifically for children, but most parents would not object to having younger children watch.
    Parental Guidance Suggested - Parents may find this content inappropriate for younger children, or may want to watch the program with them. The program may contain some moderate violence (V), sexual situations (S), coarse language (L) and/or suggestive dialogue (D).
    Parents Strongly Cautioned - Many parents would find this content inappropriate for kids under age 14. Parents are strongly urged to monitor the program and to not let kids under age 14 watch unattended. Contains intense violence (V), sexual situations (S), strong coarse language (L) and/or strongly suggestive dialogue (D).
    Mature Audience Only - Intended for adults and may be inappropriate for kids under age 17. Contains graphic violence (V), explicit sexual activity (S) and/or coarse, indecent language (L).




    rc="" border="0" width="16" height="16" /> (mild)

    rc="" border="0" width="16" height="16" /> (mild)

    rc="" border="0" width="16" height="16" /> (moderate)

    rc="" border="0" width="16" height="16" /> (moderate)

    You can download a brochure explaining the ratings in more detail and how to use the V-Chip at

    Deirdre Wilson senior editor for Dominion Parenting Media.

    Rating Violence Language Sexual Situations Dialogue Fantasy Violence
    TV-Y (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused)
    TV-Y7 (unused) (unused) (unused) (exclusive use)
    TV-G (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused) (unused)
    TV-PG (mild) (mild) (unused)
    TV-14 (moderate) (moderate) (unused)
    TV-MA (strong) (strong) (strong) (unused) (unused)

    Icons are displayed on screen for the first 15 seconds of every rated program.