TV Parental Guidelines

TV Ratings

In 1996, Congress asked the broadcasting industry to establish a voluntary rating system for TV programs. The industry did so by creating the ratings system known as “TV Parental Guidelines.” The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board makes sure the rating guidelines are applied accurately and consistently to television programming.

Rating labels were created to help viewers decide what to watch, and to help parents determine which programs are suitable for their children. There are six labels, two for children’s programming and four for general programming:

Children’s Programming

  • TV Y: Deemed appropriate for all children, including ages 2-6.
  • TV Y7: Designed for children age 7 and above. May include mild fantasy or comedic violence.

General Programming

  • TV G: Suitable for all ages, although not designed specifically for young children. Contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.
  • TV PG: Parental guidance suggested: contains material parents may find unsuitable for younger children, including moderate violence, sexual situations, infrequent coarse language, and/or suggestive dialogue.
  • TV 14: Parents strongly cautioned: contains material many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14, including intense violence, intense sexual situations, strong coarse language, and/or intensely suggestive dialogue.
  • TV MA: Mature audience: designed for adult viewing and may be unsuitable for children under 17; includes graphic violence, explicit sexual activity, and/or crude language.

Four letters may be added to each label to indicate the content the program contains:

  • V: Violence
  • S: Sex
  • L: Coarse language
  • D: Sexual dialogue

The rating labels appear in the corner of your television screen during the first 15 seconds of each program. They are also included in the television listings of many newspapers. Ratings are assigned to all television programming except news, sports, and unedited movies on premium cable channels.

Parents can also use a V-chip, cable lockbox, or a set-top box to block inappropriate television programming.

  • V-Chip: The V-chip electronically reads television programming ratings and allows parents to block programs they believe to be unsuitable for their children. Using the remote control, parents can program the V-chip to block certain shows based on their ratings. If your television is equipped with V-chip technology, the option should appear as part of your television’s menu. Personal computers that include a television tuner and a monitor of 13 inches or greater are also required to include V-chip technology.
  • Set-Top Box: If your television does not have a V-chip, you can get a set-top box, which works the same way as a built-in V-chip.
  • Cable Lockbox: This option, available to cable subscribers, prevents viewing of any channel on which objectionable programming may appear. Cable operators are required to make lockboxes available for sale or lease to customers who request them. Lockboxes may also be purchased from other commercial distributors.