How the Ratings are Supposed to Work

“In order for the system to work properly, content ratings must be accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable. The current system is none of that."
        PTC President Tim Winter

With so many forms of entertainment each with their own rating system, it is difficult for parents to keep track of or fully understand what that "funny little box in the corner" really means. Here we've compiled a list of each rating system and what the symbols are supposed to mean. As a parent our jobs are hard enough without the added confussion of the rating systems.

See Press Release: PTC Calls for Overhaul of TV & Movie Ratings Systems


Ratings for Various Entertainment Media

Television Ratings

These ratings are assigned to television programs by the network that airs them. The PTC has compiled research on the age-based ratings system for television and has determined it is a failure. There is no inter-network consistency in the ratings. Worse, there is not even intra-network consistency.

In short, the age-based system, which the television industry promised would help inform and assist parents in choosing appropriate shows for their children, is making such a determination more confusing than ever before.

Movie Ratings

These ratings are assigned to films by the "independent" rating board, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  Despite the familiarity with this system, parents continue to have complaints about how movie ratings are assigned and the overall design of the ratings system.

Video Game Ratings

These ratings are assigned to video games by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ESRB ratings are designed to provide information about video and computer game content, so you can make informed purchase decisions. ESRB ratings have two parts: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game, and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. To take full advantage of the ESRB rating system, it's important to check both the rating symbol (on the front of the game box) and the content descriptors (on the back of the game box).

Album Ratings

Since 1985 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has labeled music releases containing explicit lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence and sex, with a parental advisory so parents can determine whether that album is appropriate for their child.