Gaming With Your Kids: ESRB Ratings

The ESRB ratings are there for a reason. Through their website you can see what each rating means.
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Everyone knows that games can be extremely violent, have naughty words and a lot of naked men and women. You can shoot people, you can set things on fire and a variety of other generally frowned upon behaviors. You can do all of this with no real-world consequences.

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What you may not have noticed is that all games come with a rating. You’ll see it right before a trailer, a flash of a black screen with a white box and one or two letters.

Take this Dead Space 3 trailer, for instance. Before you see anything else, you’re given five to six solid seconds of this rating screen. Everyone’s seen this, right?


Apparently not. It’s fairly obvious that some parents aren’t even aware that a rating system for video games exists.  The appeal of sitting your kid down with a controller and getting a couple of hours of peace is a pretty great thing–except for when you’re sitting your ten year old down with Grand Theft Auto or something like Dead Space.

Most kids know way more about the rating system than their parents do, and that’s how kids get away with buying mature games in stores like GameStop. Online, it’s more difficult, but not by much. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen parents unknowingly buy mature titles for their kids–and it’s perfectly legal to sell a mature game to a minor who has a parent physically present to give consent.

What parents can do

So here are a couple of things you, as a parent, can do to ensure that your child is playing games that are appropriate to their age group.

  • Doing online research is easier than ever. Bookmark the ESRB page. The very top has a search bar where you can enter the title. The results will give you the rating and the reasons for that rating–be it nudity, violence, language, etc.
  • Don’t just blindly drop your kid off at GameStop while you go shop for… whatever. Go down the aisles with them and find out what they like and why. Try and find a suitable alternative with your child.
  • Talk with your kids! Tell them why one game is inappropriate or why you don’t like or want them to see the content. Kids are smart and will understand more than we generally give them credit for.
  • Most importantly, sit down and play with them. Maybe not for hours on end, but at least sit down and have an experience with them. Make sure they understand the basic concept of the game and get the most from it. Playing with your kids is a great way to bond over something they enjoy–and who knows, you may even enjoy it too.

The next installment of Gaming With Your Kids will be on some of the best family friendly consoles that may get your entire clan moving.

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Katy Hollingsworth
whale biologist.