The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. The ESRB rating system encompasses guidance about age-appropriateness, content, and interactive elements. As part of its self-regulatory role for the video game industry, the ESRB also enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible web and mobile privacy practices among companies participating in its Privacy Online program. ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).
So what? Who cares? If my son wants a video game, I just get it for him. The ratings are just a guideline, right? Nothing enforceable related to these ratings.
Wrong. For exactly the same reason I would not take my 10 year old son to an “R” rated movie, is why I would not let him play an “M” rated video game. He is not ready for it mentally. He should not be subjected to foul language anymore than necessary (and by necessary, here in NYC you hear that stuff in the streets regularly). And he certainly should not be watching video games where sex is discussed, if not simulated in some form, cause when his parents talk about it he gets squeamish, but when it is on one of those “cool” video games his interested is piqued. There are two different sides to our kids, don’t be fooled!
These ratings are extremely important. I struggled when my son was 9 with whether or not to let him play with “E 10” games. I did because I thought he might be ready for the challenge. “T” and “M” games are not just more challenging, their content it not age appropriate for my son. This is where we parents need to be constantly vigilant.
My son sees ads for war and fighting videos all the time, on TV and many store windows. He would love one of those games (actually, he wants all of them). He is 10, he is not allowed war games, killing Zombie games, or car racing games where folks are constantly crashing. This is not a joke, this is his emotional development.
And all of this is thrown out the window when visiting relatives. Unless I am willing to start WW3, I have to sit back and watch him, watch his older cousins, play all of these games. In front of 30 plus family members I cannot remove him from the room. The alternative of not visiting family is not an option either. This is where parenting in the video game age gets tough. The best solution I have found is to make sure he knows he is not allowed to touch a remote when these games are being played. The family knows that I am not flexible in this regard, and trust me they have tried to change my mind. They can take their “What’s the big deal” and shove it!
And part of the problem is many parents do not look at or care about the ratings systems. That makes my job much harder. What if he is at a friends house? What if he is sleeping over a cousins house? I can only control so much, and then there is the forbidden fruit aspect, he knows if I am not there, there is nothing I can do. I of course interrogate him when he returns and hope I can instill some guilt, I mean lesson into him, but I will never be able to protect my child from everything at all times.
So the best any of us can hope for, is to visit the ESRB site, and educate ourselves. Find out why the ratings systems are set up the way they are, find out why games get the ratings they get, and download the app onto your phone so you are not stuck in a store without the knowledge to explain to your child why certain games are not right for their age group.
Knowledge is power parents! Get the information and then use it to guide your kids! They all received multiple games this holiday, return the ones that are not right for their age group!
Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. I have met the ESRB folks several times and wanted to share this info with all the Parents, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents out there!