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Health & Parenting

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Parents Rate the Media Rating System

Study Shows Many Parents Want to See Improvements in TV and Movie Rating Systems
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 20, 2011 -- New research indicates that many parents believe media ratings help them make decisions about what type of content they allow their children to be exposed to, but improvements in media rating systems are needed.

Most parents are concerned about media content, whether it's viewed on television, at the movies, on video games, or handheld devices, according to a new study based on three national surveys.

The research, involving the opinions of more than 2,300 adults, also indicates, however, that there is sometimes disagreement on matters involving age appropriateness for various kinds of content. What some might deem appropriate for one specific childhood age group might be considered inappropriate by other adults.

Improvements Needed in Rating Systems

Many parents believe that current rating systems are inaccurate and need to be improved, according to the study. And parents think improvements in ratings would help them make decisions about what types of media they should allow for their children and the types of content they should allow at various ages.

A majority of parents surveyed felt there should be a universal rating system for all media, including web sites, music CDs, and games played on handheld devices.

Current rating systems vary widely among movies, television, and video games and can be confusing, according to analysis of the three surveys.

The researchers state that the rating systems have many problems, including being applied in an unreliable manner.

For example, the researchers cite a previous study of 2,757 television programs in which 79% contained violence but did not have a rating of "V."

Also, 91% of shows with offensive language lacked an "L" warning, and 92% of programs with sexual content had no "S" to designate that they did.

The researchers also mention "ratings creep," meaning that ratings over time tend to become more lenient.

They cite another previous study of 2,000 films and found that one that was rated PG-13 in 2003 included about the same amount of violence, nudity, and offensive language as one rated "R" a decade earlier.

Parents were asked views on the age appropriateness of allowing kids to see such things as romantic kissing, partial nudity, implied sexual situations, depictions of drug and alcohol use, and to hear offensive language or insults about body parts.

They also were asked about when kids of various ages should be allowed to be exposed to situations of sexual innuendo and suggestive sexual dialogue. Opinions varied widely.

The largest percentage of parents indicated age 17 and older might be appropriate for media involving sexual situations, explicit sex, explicit dialogue, partial nudity, and commercials with sexual content.

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