If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard your child plead for the latest, hottest video game. And as a parent, you may have found yourself in the position of having to decide whether a game rated “T for Teen,” recommended for kids 13 and older, is really OK for your younger “tween” to play. And what do you do if the rating information on the back of the game box says that the game contains “Fantasy Violence” and “Blood and Gore?” What exactly does that mean?
“Those terms (content descriptors) are helpful, but sometimes I need more detail than what’s on the box,” says one parent, “especially when my 11-year-old has got his heart set on a game, and I’m more inclined to err on the side of caution.”
For times like these, a new resource is now available to help parents decide whether a video game is truly appropriate for their child. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) — the non-profit group that assigns age and content ratings for computer and video games — has recently started offering “rating summaries,” which provide a brief yet descriptive explanation of content that factored into a game’s rating. They detail everything from what sort of violent acts are in the game to the words that your child will hear to the appearance or use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs by a character in the game.
Parents can find rating summaries by searching specific titles on the ESRB’s Web site (www.esrb.org), or they can look them up, right from the video game store, by using a Web-enabled cell phone to search game titles on the ESRB’s mobile Web site (m.esrb.org).
“The ratings are a great resource, and checking them will undoubtedly give you a good sense of whether a game is right for your child, but by their nature they are intended to provide basic guidance and information,” says Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB. “For those parents that want to go beyond the rating information on the package, rating summaries deliver exactly what they need. They allow parents to dig deeper and get that much more comfortable with a game’s content before they bring it home for their child. At the end of the day, it’s all about peace of mind.”