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How to know what kids can watch with TV Parental Guidelines

by | May 17, 2024


The growth of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and many others has opened up a world of viewing options. With so many shows and movies available, it’s hard for a parent to determine the best choices for their children. Fortunately, along with all the viewing platforms, there are also several ways for parents to monitor what their children watch. One way is understanding how the TV Parental Guidelines rate the content and age-appropriateness of TV shows. Read on to learn more about the TV Parental Guidelines.

Father and son watching a show after checking TV Parental Guidelines

An overview of TV Parental Guidelines

The television industry designed the TV Parental Guidelines as a rating system that gives parents and guardians information at a glance about the appropriate age ranges for different content. The TV Guidelines are modeled after the film ratings system, making them easy to recognize. Below is an example of a TV rating, with descriptions of the different information it includes.

TV Parental Guidelines overview

Most television programs display the ratings icon and content descriptors at the beginning, usually in the upper-left corner of the screen. However, sports and news shows do not include the ratings. While for programs that last more than one hour, the ratings icon appears at the beginning of the second hour. As ratings can change episode to episode, you’ll want to check the specific rating at the start of the show before letting your child watch. While you pay attention to the TV ratings, there are other resources and tools for controlling what your kids watch. These include the V-Chip that is built into most televisions, parental controls included in your cable, satellite, or streaming device, and the TV Boss website.

The ratings

Here’s a more in-depth look at the TV ratings you may see. Understanding these will give you a better idea of how and why certain TV programs are deemed suitable for certain age groups. 

Ratings indicating suitability for young children

TV-Y: All Children – Programming rated TV-Y is most suitable for children ages 2 to 6. Whether it is an animated or live action show, the themes of the program are designed for a very young audience.

TV-G: General Audience – Most parents agree these programs are suitable for all ages. A TV-G rated show contains little or no violence, no strong language and little to no sexual dialogue or situations. Typically, parents feel comfortable letting younger children watch G-rated programs with little or no supervision.

Ratings indicating suitability for young children

TV-Y7: Directed to Older Children – In programs with the TV-Y7 rating, you’ll find mild fantasy or comedic violence that’s most suitable for children ages 7 and above. Some themes or components of the show may frighten children younger than age 7. Therefore, parents may want to consider not letting younger children watch this type of program.

TV-Y7 FV: Directed to Older Children, Fantasy Violence – The main difference between the TV-Y7 rating above and TV-Y7 FV is that TV-Y7 FV programs contain fantasy violence that may not be suitable for younger children under age 7. Y7 FV programs are created for older children.

TV-PG: Parental Guidance Suggested – Programs with a PG rating contain material that some parents may find unsuitable for children. Additionally, there could be added ratings such as suggestive dialogue (D), infrequent coarse or crude language (L), some sexual situations (S), and some moderate violence (V). Looking out for these additional ratings can help you decide whether the program is suitable for your child.

Ratings indicating suitability for older children or young adults

TV-14: Parents Strongly Cautioned – The TV-14 rating, as you might guess, is for shows deemed appropriate for teens above the age of 14. Many parents will not feel these shows are suitable for their younger children. At the start of the program, you may notice additional ratings. These include suggestive dialogue (D), coarse or crude language (L), intense sexual situations (S), or intense violence (V). Therefore, parents are urged to exercise care and attention if letting their children watch these programs.

TV-MA: Mature Audience Only – This TV rating warrants extreme caution if children under the age of 17 are watching. Content with the MA rating is intended to be viewed by adults. Generally, it is not suitable for children under the age of 17. Be aware the content can include explicit sexual activity (S), extremely graphic violence (V), and indecent language (L). 

Sometimes the same television series can be edited and rated differently depending on when it airs and which channel or streaming service is presenting it. For example, premium networks or platforms like HBO and Showtime may show content that hasn’t been edited for younger audiences, compared to versions found on basic cable or broadcast channels.

Controlling what the kids watch

Before you let your child watch a new show, take a good look at the TV Parental Guidelines to help you decide whether it’s a good choice. While you’re paying attention to the TV ratings, you can also explore other parental ratings and reviews. One resource for this is Common Sense Media. This group provides nuanced and detailed reviews from parents, kids, and media experts about shows, movies, games, and more. Consider making a media plan for your family to set limits and guidelines for your unique household. Whatever methods you use, being aware of what your kids are watching is crucial to their well-being.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/maliaruchti" target="_self">Malia Ruchti</a>

Malia Ruchti


Malia Ruchti has been known to use the internet once in a while. She has found herself writing on, about, and for the internet for at least 10 years. She's written web content for nonprofits and small businesses. She has also written grants and business plans. Writing content for CenturyLink has given her great insight to the workings of the internet. Malia lives in Colorado with her family, most of whom are too young to explore the internet. Instead, they spend a lot of time outside with plants, dogs, and bikes.