Ratings of teen-rated video games do not always fully describe content

content descriptors fails to capture positive messages, and raise this as an issue of the rating system failing to provide incentives to game manufacturers to include positive health messages in games. Based on the wide range of content observed and the absence of some content descriptors, the authors recommended that the ESRB consider using additional age-based categories in its ratings, such as a Youth rating for ages 10 years and up and a T-15 rating for ages 15 years and up. They emphasized that the ESRB should make playing the games an integral part of the rating process to ensure that the process provides the highest quality information to parents.

Haninger and Thompson encourage physicians, particularly pediatricians and specialists in adolescent medicine, to ask patients and their parents about their experiences with video games and to actively mediate any potential health risks. They emphasize that parents remain in the best position to judge the appropriateness of game content for and with their children. With teens consuming large amounts of media containing content that might surprise parents and promote unhealthy behaviors, researchers believe parents should engage their children in discussions about media content.

"The results of this study and the recent glimpse of popular teen culture that parents saw in the Super Bowl half-time show should serve as a wake-up call to parents to pay attention to what's in their children's media diets," says senior author Thompson, who also is associate professor of Risk Analysis and Decision Science at Harvard School of Public Health. "All media educate children, whether intended or not. By using the ESRB rating information and actively engaging in their children's experiences with video games, parents can make the best choices and promote their children's healthy development."


Contact: Mary-Ellen Shay or Susan Craig
Children's Hospital Boston

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