Two-Thirds Of US Parents Admit They Don’t Bother Checking Video Game Age Ratings

Two-Thirds Of US Parents Admit They Don’t Bother Checking Video Game Age Ratings

The ESRB has a fairly detailed and complex system that determines what games are marked kid-safe and which are considered appropriate for adults’ eyes only. All major publishers participate in the voluntary rating system, and it is instrumental in physical, retail game sales in stores like GameStop and Walmart.

But does any of it actually matter if parents aren’t bothering to use the rating scale to guide their childrens’ play?

On the heels of the most recent claim that violent video games cause children to behave violently, UK-based game website surveyed parents to see if they are aware of the ratings on the games their children play.

The site had 1221 parents respond to their survey, all of whom have children 17 or under who regularly or frequently play video games. According to Playr2:

The parents taking part were asked if they checked the age restrictions of their children’s video games before allowing them to play, to which just under two thirds, 64%, answered “no”. Of those who did not, the majority, 55%, simply explained that they did not think that age restrictions ‘mattered’ on video games.

When asked, “Would you be concerned if your child was playing video games with an age restriction of 18?” just over half, 51%, of respondents to the study said “no”.

The parents were also asked about films with the same age restriction (equivalent to an R rating in the US). However, in the instance of movies, the small majority (54 per cent) said yes, they would be concerned if their child were watching them.

The survey also asked participants if they felt that violence in video games could affect their childrens’ real-life behaviour negatively (making their children more violent) and 61 per cent responded that no, the games could not.

Playr2 founder Simon Kilby said that it was “really surprising” to him to find that the majority of parents didn’t check age restrictions, and added, “they’re there for a reason.”

Anecdotally, the study seems to be on to something. During my many months behind the counter at GameStop, years ago, I sold countless copies of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to children 12 and under, even after patiently explaining to the parents and guardians with them that the game was rated M for a reason. After my spiel, one young boy was escorted out via painful-looking ear-grab by his incensed grandmother, whose meaning was clear even if I didn’t speak her language. But that was only one out of dozens.

Every child matures at a different rate, and every parent is going to set different boundaries for what they feel is appropriate in their home. Giving an M-rated game to a 16-year-old is certainly different than giving one to a nine-year-old. But “won’t someone think of the children?!” is a frequent refrain in discussions of sex and violence in video games. If parents themselves aren’t aware or don’t care about the differences, it’s easy to see how kid-unfriendly material keeps ending up where it perhaps shouldn’t be.

Image: Shutterstock


  • I was trying to think of something hilarious to say to this article that showed my superior intelligence since we all already knew this through anecdotal evidence, but all I can think of is the times when my parents DID read the ratings and up until I was 13 I was not allowed to play MA games because they were too violent, then retailers would not sell them to me. I thank my parents every day for looking out for me as a kid and can’t imagine what parents are thinking giving a game like Battlefield 3 or MW to a nine year old.
    I’m glad there was some form of study on this, I don’t think it will amount to much, but I would hope it will make parents realise that there are ratings for a reason and maybe a game that features people being ripped apart isn’t appropriate for little Timmy who can’t read yet

  • People also smoke when they know it will eventually kill them. It gets the kids off their back and lets them relax.

    • The problem with that analogy is that people acknowledge that smoking will eventually kill them, whereas the articles is saying that parents aren’t even bothering to check the ratings. In terms of the analogy, this is starting to smoke without even knowing what it will do to you.

  • If you don’t care about the rating of a videogame then I think you have no right to complain once you discover the content that’s in the game.

    • While I agree with you, it won’t stop people claiming ignorance and going on Fox News saying it isn’t their fault they couldn’t take 5 minutes out of their lives to do some damn parenting, it’s the vidya gaems fault for existing and corrupting our childrens.

  • And this is the main reason why i think the Australian government is up in arms about an R18+ classification. Most parents still feel that video games are for children (having not played any themselves), therefore they believe content in them is suitable for their kids to play despite the classification. Compare this to films, they would at least have an idea what sort of content is in the film given from the rating, thus can judge if their child should watch it. So if little 10 year old Johnny tells his mother about Grand Theft Auto and how he wants it, his mother may not have any idea about the content about it and just assumes it’s fine, because it’s a videogame. If little Johnny then asks to go see say American Reunion, the mother may be aware of what content the film will have and the exposure it will have on her child, and may say no.

    Too often i’ve seen parents (mothers especially) shop with their 10 year old kids and buy them MA15+ games without taking a second glance at the rating. Heck when i went to see American Reunion this week, there were a number of young kids in there with their parents.

    Instead of the government trying to look after the children, why not properly educate the parents so they understand what content is in video games, so they can at least be more informed before making a judgement. Like most other problems facing today, such as alcohol and drug cultures in teenagers, a lot of things can be avoided if parents took more responsibility in looking out for their kids. I think everyone will be a lot happier if people took more responisibility rather than allowing the government putting blanket rules which inevitably affects everyone (in the case of R18 classification)

    • Sadly, the world we live in, nobody takes responsibility. The parents generally want an easy fix so little Johnny will shut up for ten minutes. Working in a game store myself, this is all to common for me. Spend a few minutes telling some moron parent that Grand Theft Auto contains prostitution, sex scenes etc, to be told to “mind your own business” because 9 year old Johnny always gets what he wants. It stinks. The government do need to step in and tell parents what they can and can’t do, as they seem to have no idea on how to raise children these days. As long as little Johnny leaves Mummy and Daddy alone.

  • this infomation is really good, im doing a school project on the topic so its good to see we have pepole with their heads screwed on proplerly

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!