Parents Often Ignore Game Ratings, Say Grand Theft Childhood Authors

Continuing to dig through Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner’s excellent Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, we note the authors’ finding that parents often ignore video game ratings:

While [parents] were aware of the ESRB rating system, they didn’t always pay attention to it… [Some parents] looked at the artwork on the packaging or spoke with a store clerk… Several had M and T ratings confused… Some relied on their children’s own judgment…

Most acknowledged that while they might have strict rules at home prohibiting certain types of games, their children might easily play those games at another child’s house… [Parents expressed] frustration that they weren’t able to get the information they wanted and valued from the ratings…

Almost all of the parents we spoke with agreed with the age categories of the ESRB ratings – but for other people’s children, not for their own. They tended to let their younger teenagers play M-rated games and their preteen children playT-rated games…

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  1. 0
    Sai ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    T can be fairly broad, I mean Smash Bros. Brawl got bumped up to “T” just because Wario farts in one move (I don’t think “cartoon violence” alone would constitute a T rating but an E10+.) So I’m not all that shocked at preteens playing certain T rated games.

    At my job I always inform parents when a game they’re purchasing is rated M, sometimes they ask me to elaborate on the game content, which I’ll gladly do. Many turn to their children and deny them the game, however a surprising amount are soon talked back into purchasing it by the child, usually with GTA using the excuse that they already have one of the earlier titles.

  2. 0
    JustChris says:


    Parenting is indeed filled with many challenges and as our world changes, new things come up related to children. Some parents reach the point of giving up when they face new technology that they don’t understand. But compared to a salaried job, they actually have it easy in this case.

    At work, if you don’t adapt to new protocol, you can get fired. As a parent, you just let things slip by and allow unexpected crap to occur. There’s no motivation to adapt. And complain when it blows up in your face.

  3. 0
    Alex says:

    Its people like these (Jack Thompson) who try to blame everything bad that happens in teens to video games, yes in some cases it is violent video games. But in the end its usualy the enviroment the child has lived in, being yelled at, beaten left out of games ect… Or sometimes even people can’t explain it so they will automaticly try to blame video games. Lets say a kid kills himself and his family, the kid could have been a pretty good guy, then people will take it upon themselves to search his computer history to find out that he played counterstirke 5 months ago. Then some person with nothing better to do will say he must have trained on it, but if they looked closer they might have noticed that he was exiled in school, people could have hated him, picked on him. Enough of this rant you get the picture.
    Thanks for your time, Alex

  4. 0
    KillianD says:

    @Ian Cooper

    I have to disagree with you here. There’s a difference between using ratings to help make a decision and following them blindly. If I know what kind of game a “T” rating denotes, I can use that to make a decision-or at least to get a general idea of what the game is. Personally, I would do more research than that, but it’s a good starting place. Using a rating doesn’t mean following the associated age limit. It just means that you’re aware of what standard the rating serves, and that that information is at your disposal.

  5. 0
    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Ian Cooper

    Well, congratulations on joining the ranks of people telling other people how to raise their children; and calling them bad parents if they don’t do it your way.

  6. 0
    shaoron ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s great to have an open dialogue with your children, but guess what. Many kids end up reaching a certain age where they don’t want to talk. And guess what? No matter how hard the parent tries, the kid still won’t open up. It happens. It’s not bad parenting as long as the parents don’t give up… and that usually involves snooping, but at the same time, the parents need to give their kids some kind of privacy. That’s usually when the parenting advice suggests the parent be allowed to tear their kid’s room apart, but the kid can keep a diary that shall remain private.

    i know someone who open up to his parents from elementary all the way up to…well young adult. he never stopped talking and opening up to his parents about alot of things, from small frustrations… well almost everything. And you know what was the differnce? the parents never stopped being involved in the kids. they were never “too busy” for them. they always spend time with them and lecture them and do stuff together.

    the only reason kids don’t open up once they hit a certain age is because.. well.. the parents is “too busy” for them. not give them time. always wanted “quality time” with kids but fail to realize that quality time comes from QUANTITY time.

  7. 0
    Coravin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The ESRB seems like the best ratings system available, hands down. I’ve only been in like eight different countries, but nothing I’ve seen in any lanuage is as clear-cut and detailed (either, but especially not both). But I think a lot of us (gamers) forget that the same parents not bothering to read the ratings and then accusing the ratings of being unclear because they didn’t read them are probably illiterate and/or mentally challenged. Even ignoring the reality that most of us have issues like OCPD or whatever–I’m talking about major learning disorders and value judgment or social issues.

    There’s a really high rate of illiteracy in this country, compared to what you’d think it would be, and then there are the non-native English (or no-English) speakers, whose kids have to translate for them. One would assume these people aren’t counted in any of the surveys, due to that lack, but they account for an embarrasing number of the real-life “ratings ignorance”. In my experience.

    Not to mention that most parents think their 12-year-old can watch R-rated movies, and many think their 8-or-younger children can too (I can’t believe how many parents just take their kids in or sneak them in to movies in which I would cover my eyes). Actually, most movie theaters could care less about age as long as a parent is there, and parents generally use the same evaluation (nothing will hurt MY kid) for videogames and then complain later because they see somehhting the box said was in the game.

  8. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Really though, if playing violent video gmes doesn’t turn a person in to a killer, why should I care if someone else’s kids are playing them? I don’t, because it’s not my problem, nor is it my responsiblity. I’m not gonna try to be everyone’s parent.

  9. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I don’t think those people are bad parents. With parenting, a lot of things won’t happen ideally, but there are only a few ways a person can truly fuck up and be called a bad parent. What I meant is that parents should try and make these decisions themselves instead of just conforming to someone else’s decisions. Even if they don’t, I still wouldn’t call them bad parents. Pobody’s Nerfectk.

  10. 0
    TBone Tony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Also reading this makes me feel that the authors are just talking about the minority of the parents, or perhaps the bad examples of parents who don’t even understand the ESRB ratings, which is kinda sad because I feel that there are some really good parents who do understand it.

  11. 0
    TBone Tony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I feel that this is because that some parents make their own judgements of what sort of rating is suitable for their kids.

    I won’t jump to conclusions that this is because of lazy parenting.

    Perhaps there are some parents who are just so sick and tired about hearing all about the negative effects of videogames that they simply just turn off from listening.

    So you see, exageration of the truth does not always work.

    But also what about the choise of the parent?

    Some will do look at the ratings, but in the end it is their decision and it is neither right or wrong what they chose their kids to play.

    Because it is from their decision only that matters.

    Regardless of what others might think.

    this is just my point of view anyway.

  12. 0
    Ragnaar ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Ian Cooper:

    Actually, there are specifics within the ESRB that help guide the raters to a rating. The descriptors are a better source. And again, if you’re comfortable with having your kids play games like that, then yes, by all means, buy that game for your kids. The OVERALL rating is, indeed, a matter of opinion to some degree, but the descriptors are most assuredly not. The board does have specific points to what’s defined as Strong versus the normal descriptor.

    There remains people with different views on morality. Some are offended by violence. If they see that on the back of the box, then they probably won’t pick up the game. They might say Cartoon Violence (another descriptor) is fine, but just Violence is not.

    Then there are those offended by sexual content. That’s why there’s descriptors that mention Sexual Themes (and Strong Sexual Themes). You can be assured that those people who know about the game won’t want that game in the hands of their children.

    At the same time, the ESRB is not forcing you not to buy games. They even have an Adults Only rating, but the companies who distribute the consoles these games are often on have explicit rules not to have Adult Only content on their machines. Is that the fault of the ESRB? No.

    As I said before, just because there’s an M rating on a game doesn’t mean that you can’t buy it for your kids. The kids might get some difficulty for trying to purchase such a game, but believe it or not, there are actually parents out there who DON’T know what their kids are playing. THOSE are the parents you should be complaining about, not the ones who look at a rating and decide for their own children.

    So my question to you is this: how EXACTLY are the ESRB ratings “dangerous”? And don’t give the “lazy parenting” excuse because that just holds no water.

    @GRIZZAM 512:

    It’s great to have an open dialogue with your children, but guess what. Many kids end up reaching a certain age where they don’t want to talk. And guess what? No matter how hard the parent tries, the kid still won’t open up. It happens. It’s not bad parenting as long as the parents don’t give up… and that usually involves snooping, but at the same time, the parents need to give their kids some kind of privacy. That’s usually when the parenting advice suggests the parent be allowed to tear their kid’s room apart, but the kid can keep a diary that shall remain private.

    Hell, many parents would consider themselves lucky to maintain open dialogue with their children, even through the teenage years. Many good parents, for one reason or another, won’t.

  13. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Supposedly, the raters at the ESRB have to have experience with children, usually by being a parent. Don’t know about PEGI or the BBFC.

  14. 0
    Me says:

    I wasn’t quite as disturbed as the author about parents letting preteens buy T games. Generally, only 10% of T games should be rated T. 20% should be rated M and 70% should be rated E10.

  15. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah, the ratings are no excuse for not knowing your own damn kid, but they still serve a purpose, if only to shut up the whiners that think all games are being marketed to kids.

  16. 0
    shaoron ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    maybe but it at least gives a baseline of sorts to know what’s in a game. it’s not completely accurate but tells you a chunk of what the game has.

    this ain’t perfect, but it’s a good thing to have.

  17. 0
    Brandon ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @GRIZZAM 512

    Whoa take it easy man.
    like half of your words are capitalized, take a deep breath and… go shoot some virtual hookers.

  18. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    How many hoops must be jumped before people stop bitching? HOW MANY?!!!! Really though, it’s crap. Parents have more than enough tools to give them the help people didn’t used to need, and still they bitch. You have ratings, content descriptors, age suggestions, built in blocks and parental settings, and all sorts of other shit. WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU LAZY FUCKS??!! It’s not that hard to know what your kids are doing, especially when you live in the SAME HOUSE!! TALK TO YOUR DAMN KIDS AND YOU WON’T NEED TO BE LIKE A FUCKING HAWK!! Your kid can tell the difference between right and wrong, RIGHT? Your kid can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, RIGHT? THEY CAN’T? WHY THE FUCK NOT? NO WONDER THEIR SO DAMN CRAZY!

    IN THE WORDS OF BENDER: Have you ever tryed turning off the TV, sitting down with your child, and hitting them?

    IN THE WORDS OF PETER GRIFFIN: If you take your values from what you watch, you’re an idiot. Maybe if you have a problem with your kid watching a certain show, maybe you shouldn’t let your kid watch it in the first place, instead of blaming the show itself. How ’bout that. Yeah.

  19. 0
    rav3 says:

    Im an information designer and i do think the color coding would actually work with one modiffication go from a super friendly green to a yellowish green, to yellow, to orangish yellow, to orangish red to red, that way by seeing the full color gradient, you can kinda guess which one is much more “dangerous” as for my kids, i guess id have to talk to them but if i considered the facts of me growing up perfectly ok, no hard science on games harming them, and they actually not being scared by the games i think its ok for them to play.

  20. 0
    chopperlink ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Gamestop needs to make a sign out of every store saying “VIDEOGAMES ARE NOT JUST CHILDREN, YES, ADULTS DO ENJOY VIDEOGAMES!”
    I am sick of parents acting like violent videogames have no place in the world since they think that adults don’t play videogames.

  21. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    If anything, other countries should be copying the ESRB, not the other way around. It’s the clearest out there. The game retailers are behind it. The game publishers are behind it. There is no reason to revamp it.

  22. 0
    DarkTetsuya ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Legislation? No I just thought if they revamped the rating system so it’s similar to the ones the UK has (Aren’t they color coded?) or some other way to drive home the ‘NOT FOR CHILDREN’ concept… I mean as if titles like ‘MANHUNT 2’ or ‘GRAND THEFT AUTO’ didn’t do that already. (Which they don’t, apparently. :( )

  23. 0
    Delta says:

    Gamestop employee also, I actually saw quite a number of kids use the ESRB ratings to choose their kids last Xmas, with very little resistance. When any parent asked me for gaming recommendations, I always told them the popular M rated games they should avoid for kids 16 and under (most were 8-14) and they agreed saying they didn’t want their children playing those games. Awareness is actually very high, it’s just you will always have the clueless person, dumb idiot, or the person who refuses to allow video games to be more than “children’s toys”

    @xzero87/DarkTetsuya/et. all:
    Legislation will do nothing. It never has. It never will. The people who think our government needs to enact legislation are the people who have to depend on the government to wipe their own asses every day because they can’t be bothered to do it. Nothing pisses me off more in this country than a bunch of mindless drones attached to the idea that our government should spend billions of dollars each year in special interest crap largely aimed at families so they don’t have to lift a finger for themselves. If we cut all the programs that people are scamming and abusing daily we’d have a larger budget for the programs that matter like health care and social security. I don’t like people being in poverty and poor like anyone else, but continuing to help them do nothing does not solve the problem either. I don’t like politics battles like many, but that’s what some parents want to turn this into, when as many have mentioned already, is pure common sense. Violent video games are NOT for children, and video games are NOT just for children, people need to start using their brains a little and this whole issue would be resolved.

  24. 0
    jesse ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I hang out at gamespot all the time and I ALWAYS see this. Some kid comes in and wants to buy a M-Rated game (most of the time it’s GTA) and the clerks says that they need there parent and then leaves for ten minutes. Then when they come back with there parents the clerks tells them whats in the game and they just wave there hand like they don’t care. Every 6 out of 10 parents buys these games for there kids. It’s not the clerks fault. It’s not the company’s fault. It’s not the publisher’s fault. It’s not the game company’s fault. It’s not even my own damn fault. The the Stupid ass parents fault.

  25. 0
    GRIZZAM 512 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If a parent buys an M rated game for their kid, I don’t care. Last time I checked, I haven’t met every kid on earth, so I have no clue what’s appropriate for other people’s kids. The ratings are a generalized rating system made to inform parents about what games they are buying for their kid. The ratings are not rules. Would I let a little kid play GTA? Probably not. Would I let a kid play HALO? Fuck yeah, everyone should play HALO (Hehheh). My point is that parents decide what their kids are exposed to, not a ratings board, not a cashier at a store, THE PARENTS. But if they buy a game for their kid, they forfeit their right to bitch about it, because they made the choice. The ESRB ratings are not that hard to understand; They’re about as clear as clear gets. If you still aren’t sure, check online or something. Things have been made as easy as possible, so quit being a bitch. SERIOUSLY.

  26. 0
    DarkTetsuya ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There’s a lot of comments on this one, so forgive me if this has already been suggested:

    The ESA should just change the rating system, come up with a few prototypes, and do focus tests on 30-somethings and up see which one they feel would get the message across… Heck it could probably be something as simple as adding colors to the existing logos (green for E/E10, yellow for T, and red for M)

    Just a thought.

  27. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    You know that is a good point, but I’m not sure. I personally do not see all that many T games, but M games are usually prevalent. Maybe the parents assume that the lower exposure of T games means that they are less suitable?

  28. 0
    JustChris says:

    “This is why CCFC, NPTA, NIMF and other watchdog groups are so worrisome – they don’t want to protect kids – they want to raise other people’s kids with their own morals”

    Yup, rather than trying to enforce measures that already exist, they want to abandon them and using their preferred method. Kinda like how one company buys another one and then abandons that company’s philosophies.

    If ESRB ratings proved to be more effective, we’d have less problems with watchdog groups trying to pick up the slack.

  29. 0
    Loudspeaker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The ESRB ratings are awesome.

    For those who are wondering HOW someone can get M and T mixed up I can give you that answer…

    …It does hurt my brain knowing tech support allows me to gives these answers…

    MPAA ratings are: G, PG, PG-13, R…

    So then in the ignorant, “OMG you expect me to READ THE LABEL” parent they take the ESRB system…

    Ec, E, E 10, T, M

    …and see it like this…

    E, Ec, E 10, M, T

    How? Because it’s in alphabetical order as they think the MPAA system is. So the higher the letter in the alphabet the higher the age.

    Even if you put an AGE rating right on the box… Say 13+ or something. You’d STILL have parents say the ratings are stupid and misleading with a, “Oh I thought that was a rating on how good the game was.” No matter how easy you make a system or how many “problems” you fix based on this demographic of parent they will still shift their poor decisions or socially unacceptable decisions on the system regardless of the situation.

  30. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As to the guy advocating PEGI-
    I just checked out their ratings. The number symbols are nice, but the other symbols are confusing and space-consuming. “Fear” and “Discrimination” would have to leave. The former is retarded to put on the box, and any treatment of anybody whatsoever can be construed as advocating discrimination. The ESRB system is clearer and similar enough to the MPAA rating to make it recognizable if people pay attention. I find the ESRB system superior in most ways.

  31. 0
    Lovely says:

    So… they ignore the ratings but, “[expressed] frustration that they weren’t able to get the information they wanted and valued from the ratings…”

    The heck 0_o ???

  32. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know what? This gets even funnier when I think about the fact that my local gamestop now has a sign breaking down what the ratings mean on its counter.

  33. 0
    Nash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ratings…giant as labels on the box so easy to read a retarded donkey with one eye can see it printed on the box..

    some/most parents/Hillary are plain dumb and retarded enough to not see the damn labels.

    Just like Tipper Gore before her, Hillary and all those pansies were the ones responsible for the label on the videogames…regarding it to smoking…

    damn thats the woman i want see lead my country /sarcasm

  34. 0
    Tom90deg ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Speaking personally, My nephew, he’s around 14 I believe, maybe 13. Somehow, his Mom has drilled it into his head that he is not to TOUCH games rated above T. No matter what. Which is interesting, when he’s over playing games with me, as I always enjoy a good Halo match, and I know that Halo’s not that bad. That, I believe is the opposite end of the spectrum, having the rateings as a iron-clad rule set, no matter what.

  35. 0
    Zen says:

    @ Void Munashii

    Yeah, I wouldn’t write off every district (or whatever level) manager as thinking like that, but every company (I work for Gamestop part time as a manager as well as my “real” job) has those that will put the dollar over ethics. But I’m 100% with you about stopping the sale. Sadly, if the mother had pushed it instead of changing her mind, I would have done it though because it’s not my right to tell her what her kids can and can not play just like it’s not the government or anyone elses to tell me about mine. I have 3 children of my own and will, upon MY decision and inspection of a game as a parent, fudge the age requirements for some games for my 7 year old son. Usually just to allow play on some T rated games, or even to join in a LAN party for Halo 2 or 3 because while there is shooting, I teach him that this is a game and that everyone is just playing around. As a 7 year old, he will get excited from time to time, and I just curb him back a bit and explain whatever he is viewing incorrectly. It’s not that hard to do..I really don’t understand why some parents just fudge it all up in the first place.

  36. 0
    Christian Astrup ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Most acknowledged that while they might have strict rules at home prohibiting certain types of games, their children might easily play those games at another child’s house…”

    My child should not play inappropriate games
    I will not buy my child games that are rated as unsuitable for him
    My child may play said games at friends’ houses
    Buy video game anyway, because he would play them regardless ^_^
    Whine about how we must protect the children

    Logic center overloading… patience with humanity, overheating… administer candy to deal with annoyance buildup…

  37. 0
    shaoron says:

    America: Because why blame yourself when there’s other people

    more like..

    America: Why admit I made a mistake when I can say “no one warned me about it even if it’s plain obvious” and shove the blame on someone else?

    Seriously… Hot coffee is HOT (why ese would they call it HOT coffee?), you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a member of ANON to know it. You just need a WORKING BRAIN and COMMON SENSE!

  38. 0
    Nick says:

    The rating system has big stickers on it, and they are thinking about increasing the size of the sticker in some countries.

    There’s no excuse for a Parent to not know what they are buying for their kids.

  39. 0
    Marlowe says:

    Did the parents also confuse “age 17+” with “age 13+” and think that “17” was some sort of video game speak for “13,” seriously there is no excuse for being confused with those things, they throw on enough info that an illiterate should be able to figure it out.

  40. 0
    shaoron says:

    and i have to point out This webcoic again…

    seriously… I know parenting is hard but… this is just plain ignorance and scapegoating.

    I have a friend who monitors his kid’s choices of video game. His eldest kid is almost 10 and He let’s them play T rated games (i.e. naruto, that marvel fighting game) and i don’t see any problem. A bit roudy maybe but not “murderously violent”. then again, he himself is a gamer of sorts and with just one command his kids go to bed without any complains. no.. seriously.. i’ve seen it happen when i was at his place. just ONE command, no questions asked!

    Now.. THAT’s parenting!

  41. 0
    GryphonOsiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Never under estimate the stupidity of people.” Something I live by and something proven here whenever He-who-must-not-be-named posts.

    The biggest problem is that most adults know video games as what they had when they were kids. They see it as Super Mario, Duck Hunt, Sonic the Hedgehog, even Pacman. The market has evolved, just like cartoons did, just like films did, so things have changed dramatically since the early 80’s. What it comes down to is that parents don’t bother learning what something is before handing it to their over-privillaged 9 year old. Just like they don’t say no to going to McDonald’s daily, or no that the kid shouldn’t spend 4 hours a day glued to the TV, they don’t say no to the kid when they ask from Condemned 2.

  42. 0
    ~the1jeffy says:

    My 2 years at Wal-Mart Home Entertainment concurs with this. Parents just DON’T CARE. This is why CCFC, NPTA, NIMF and other watchdog groups are so worrisome – they don’t want to protect kids – they want to raise other people’s kids with their own morals. Let’s be honest, members of these organizations know full well how to use the ratings and keep games out of the hands of their own kids – they just want to do the same for other parents’ kids.

  43. 0
    Void Munashii ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I’ve been in that spot. I made it a habit to read off all of the descriptors on the back of the box to parents. This rarely made any difference.

    Once myself and another manager (who didn’t think we should even be selling the game) actively had to not sell a copy of GTA3 to a woman whose son (maybe 12) was telling her it was perfectly okay, and that he had played it at a friend’s house. Her kid swore he was mature enough to play it… as he started crying. She actually did not buy the game. It was not something our district manager would have approved of, but we felt it to be a moral victory. If you’re not mature enough to not cry about it, you’re probably not mature enough to be playing it, that was our thought anyway.

    All that said, I do kind of expect my mother would have allowed me to play it, as I played Doom and Leisure Suit Larry when i was young.

  44. 0
    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Dan J

    It’s a matter of copyright that they didn’t in the first place. Plus I’d say that the ESRB has the better rating scheme to start with.

  45. 0
    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Some relied on their children’s own judgment…

    Funny story about that. One of the last times I was in Gamestop, I saw two kids, call them A and B. Kid A was there with his mom, and was asking Kid B which game he should get between two games. One was a T rated game, the other was from the GTA series. I got to watch as Kid B recommended the T rated game on the basis that the GTA game was for 17 year olds and up. The kids looked to be about 12.

  46. 0
    ChrowX ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    GameStop Employee here. I could’ve told you the same thing from being on the front lines.

    It’s a daily occurrence for a parent and their young child to walk up to my register and hand me a copy of any GTA and I have to resist the urge to scream at them about it. When I’m lucky, or convincing enough, or whatever, the parents will actually react to what I have told them about it being rated M and that it has drugs, sex, and violence in it and tell their kids no, who will then whine and complain that they play it all the time or that they play it at a friend’s house.
    The worst transactions, though, are the ones where, after reading the ESRB descriptors, the parents laugh and shrug it off, saying that it’s no big deal and he already plays games like that. Those transactions make me want to scream.
    Additionally, I’ve had transactions where the parent balks at the idea of their child playing one GTA game, puts the box back, and comes back with another GTA. Parental ignorance doesn’t describe it in some of these situations. It’s flat out parental idiocy.

  47. 0
    Delta says:

    I just finished the book a couple nights ago, it really is probably one of the best written books on this topic I’ve read thus far.

    Also if you look at all the articles and sites it cites, GP was cited once. Ch. 8 17. They also cited Kotaku and Destrutoid. I thought it was kinda cool that not only did they actually speak with children and parents in their study, but they looked at websites and material from a lot of the gaming community as well.

  48. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Almost all of the parents we spoke with agreed with the age categories of the ESRB ratings – but for other people’s children, not for their own.”

    Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest…

  49. 0
    IllegallyMindedJohn says:


    It’s lazy, but the parents that know “R” in movies probably do because they grew up into movie ratings (just like we grew up into ESRB ratings). The quote that lays it out is “Several had M and T ratings confused…” I’m personally not sure how you can confuse them, and wish they said more… but, I do wonder what excuses for lazy would be if the ratings were more like other countries and had numbers next to them like “M17+” (with numbers being as big as letters, cause they are there right above the letters).

    I’m not saying it needs to happen… but what would change, would they come up with more excuses to be lazy or would they applaud the industry for being proactive (doubtful, they’d probably just be more lazy)

  50. 0
    iosef ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I say good.

    there has never been convincing evidence that violent media has an effect on children or anyone else (except the mentally deranged). so let the kids play GTA and Call of Duty and No More Heroes. better that than they play shit with a lower age rating.

  51. 0
    Vake Xeacons ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s a classic case of “My kid’s better’n yours!” Parents trust their own “lil angels,” but not others. “My child would never do that!”

    The major problem is how parents don’t play games, so they don’t know how to analyse them. When a parent isn’t sure whether a movie is appropriate, they just see or rent it first, then judge if it’s okay for their kid. But with games, parents don’t play, so they don’t understand.

  52. 0
    DarrelBT says:

    I think this mess would have been all sorted out if The ESRB used the MPAA’s ratings. If they did, they’d be no differences, and they’d get away from loads of flack, lickety split.

    Problem is, the MMPA are bunch of sue happy douches.

  53. 0
    Zerodash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If you can’t tell (by SIMPLE reading) the difference between “T” and “M” then you should have your children taken away. End of Story.

  54. 0
    JustChris says:

    “Almost all of the parents we spoke with agreed with the age categories of the ESRB ratings – but for other people’s children, not for their own.”

    This is the piece of news I find most interesting “…but for other people’s children, not for their own”. It’s almost as saying, yeah the ESRB ratings are good, but not good enough for my standards. Leave that to people that are not as cool as me- I mean, my neighbors.

  55. 0
    Skylar ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think it’s time for JT to start suing parents for giving M rated games to children…

    Oh wait, he can’t… he’s going to be disbarred this summer.

  56. 0
    Void Munashii ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ mogbert

    My thoughts exactly

    If you’ve ever worked in a toy store, you’ll understand that every parent thinks their child is mature for their age, and a genius. They think their 10 year old is plenty mature to play GTA (and some may be, but not all of them). Then there is the “they play it at their friends house” excuse, which to me sounds like a talk should be had with the friends parents instead of just surrendering as if it were inevitable.

  57. 0
    mogbert ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is the part that got me:

    [Parents expressed] frustration that they weren’t able to get the information they wanted and valued from the ratings…

    Wait, so when a movie is rated “R”, that is enough information, but when a game is rated “M for Mature 17+, Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol, Use of Drugs” (the label of GTAIV)…
    THAT isn’t enough information?!?

    I think the problem is that it is too much information and parents don’t want to read all of that. So they filter it out. The parents complain that they don’t get the information from the rating, not because they aren’t lead to the water, but simply because they won’t drink.

  58. 0
    L42yB ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @WarOtter & JustChris –

    One philosophy closes the divide and the other opens it wider…

    Balance is the ideal, which means we need people with both philosophies 😉

  59. 0

    […] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptContinuing to dig through Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner’s excellent Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, we note the authors’ finding that parents often ignore video game ratings: While [parents] were aware of the ESRB rating system, they didn’t always pay attention to it… [Some parents] looked at the artwork on the packaging or spoke with a store clerk… Several had M and T ratings confused… Some relied on their children’s own judgment… […]

  60. 0
    WarOtter ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is why I hate the idea this country has fostered that every kid is unique and special. We are not all snowflakes. We are all part of a society, cogs in a machine that must interact with one another.

    I, for one, welcome the Zombie Invasion.

  61. 0
    The_Peacemaker says:

    I just feel bad for the kids.

    If the parents are either too lazy or too stupid (confusing T with M when there is the description under the letter, wow WTF) then what can we expect from the kids in terms of grades.

  62. 0
    LaxGamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can relate to everyone’s employee stories. Last summer, I worked at the GameStop in the mall. One day, a mom walks in with her son (couldn’t be older than 12) and she brought to me Conker: Live and Reloaded. I told her its rated “M” and stuff and I swear on my life she asked me where it said that. I pointed it out to her…hell, I even showed her the extra warning (if anyone purchased that gme, you would know what I’m talking about). Alas, she didnt care because she thought her son -who looked 12 mind you- was mature enough to handle this…all the while he is jumping up and down trying to get her attention. reluctantly, I sold her the game.

    today’s parents=FAIL

  63. 0
    TBone Tony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Parents who don’t play videogames perhaps don’t understand Videogames in the first place,

    therefore it is harder for them to know what the ratings are.

    There are some parents who do play videogames with their kids and do know what the ratings are.

    But the real thing is, there are some parents who grew up in a world without Videogame ratings and movie ratings.

    Change and acceptance takes a while to adjust no matter how good it is to understand,

  64. 0
    sabin_blitz ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me. I had one guy, grown man, ask me how to fill out a check and how to spell thirty a couple days ago.

  65. 0
    Ian Cooper ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Any parent who uses a ratings system as a tool to help them to parent is by definition not doing his or her job. Ratings only tell what the rater’s opinion is as to the game and that rater has probably never met the children his rating is supposed to protect. It’s kind of like asking an alien with six arms and two heads to design a car seat belt for a human when he has no idea what a human looks like or what a car is.

    In short, game ratings are like attaching hot air balloon guy lines to a bicycle – they’re intended (by folks who have no idea what they’re doing) to increase safety but in practice they’re useless and extremely dangerous.

  66. 0
    Dark Sovereign ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Legislation would make a lot of morons happy. It will give them a warm fuzzy to know that other people’s children won’t be playing those horrible murder simulators.

  67. 0
    Mech ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I’ve never really understood what was so confusing about the ratings. What information is it exactly that parents ‘want and value’ from ratings? A simple yes or no answer to ‘should I let my kid play this game?’?”
    Actually, ya, that is what most stupid people want. They refuse to listen to any sort of reason or logic until you answer their irrational and illogical yes or not question, and then proceed to ignore you anyway. Follow this link for one examples of that!
    Just scroll down to the one with the emoticons for the speakers.

  68. 0
    Sam ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’ve never really understood what was so confusing about the ratings. What information is it exactly that parents “want and value” from ratings? A simple yes or no answer to “should I let my kid play this game?”?

  69. 0
    LoopyChew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    After seeing the PEGI system in action, I can’t really think of any reason people would want to choose anything else (well, aside from using a system more in line with other entertainment ratings systems Joe Consumer is familiar with, like MPAA ratings). I do like the ESRB content descriptors, but obviously making things wordy (kinda like the MPAA ratings do now) is too much for people to handle when it comes to unfamiliar territory, so the PEGI pictograms would work quite nicely. Plus, age-based ratings!

  70. 0
    Dan J ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What parents really don’t get is that M *means* M. It’s the same as PG-13 vs. R ratings for movies… studios do everything they can — but only as much as they have to — to get into that T/PG-13 bracket. The games/movies may still have plenty of questionable content, which is why they’re T and not E.

    I’d love to see the ESRB adopt the MPAA’s rating scheme, just because it’s familiar. Parents have respect for an R rating… they don’t understand that an M rating is the same thing.

  71. 0
    Delin says:

    That example I posted was to illustrate the fact that no matter how obvious and simplistic a system and no matter how prevalent the explanations of that system (every hotel room, every entrance to the beach, many beach front restaurants, ever emergency vehicle, etc.), people will still manage to screw it up, either through apathy or group stupidity.

  72. 0
    Delin says:

    I’m not surprised with any of it. A large problem, which we are always harping on is that parents don’t parent their children, they befriend them. And the saddest thing is most kids, when they grow up end up hating their parents for it. They need and want parents not friends.

    I grew up in Pensacola. On the beaches we used a red, yellow, and green flag for the safety of the beach. Green was safe, yellow was potentially dangerous conditions be cautious, and red was don’t swim. People didn’t get it, even though it’s based off the stop light. Then they added the black flag to “clarify” everything.

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