ESRB Ratings: Do They Work?

The media often blames violence in video games to kids playing Mature rated video games. According to a 2011 study by the Federal trade Commission, stores are much more sensitive of the ESRB ratings. Secret shoppers found that only 13% of the 13 to 16 year olds, who attempted to buy M-rated games, walked away with their purchase. In 2000, a similar study found 86% percent of underage kids scored adult themed games.

Does the improving recognition of ESRB ratings prove game rating actually work? The drastic improvement certainly proves the ESRB is doing its job. But the ratings are not that straight forward. While the stores are screening before selling games to minors, we can’t be sure the parents are as vigilant.

Store clerks can stop kids from getting M-rated games and even educate parents about the ESRB, but there is no substitution for parental involvement.

What is considered appropriate by the ESRB is not necessarily parent approved. The rating systems do not automatically protect children from adult material. When it comes down to it, the only thing that “works” is parental involvement. Personal monitoring is the only way to ensure suitable content for your children. Passing on your family’s standards is something the ESRB simply can’t do.