What do parents know about sex and violence?

Reel Blog   

June is Ratings Awareness Month, so it might be of interest to find out just how aware parents are of media ratings regarding sex and violence.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, demonstrating excellent timing, has released a report detailing the findings of its survey Parents, Children & Media: A Kaiser Family Foundation Survey.

They report that “Sixty-five percent of parents say they “closely” monitor their children’s media use, while just 18% say they “should do more.” This may help to explain why since 1998 the proportion of parents who say they are “very” concerned that their own children are exposed to inappropriate content – while still high – has dropped, from 67% to 51% for sexual content, from 62% to 46% for violence, and from 59% to 41% for adult language.”

Some of the key findings:

Media Ratings

  • Parents’ use of the TV and video game ratings has stayed virtually the same since 1998 at about 50%, while use of music advisories has gone up (from 41% to 52%), and use of movie ratings has declined (from 86% to 77%).
  • Among parents who have used any of the media ratings, the proportion who say they find them “very” useful has increased over the years, from 43% to 58% for video game ratings, 45% to 56% for music advisories, and 42% to 49% for the TV ratings.
  • Many parents still don’t understand what the TV ratings mean. Among parents who have children ages 2-6, only three in 10 can name any of the ratings used for children’s shows, including TV-G, or G, which means “general audience.” Only 11% know that the rating FV indicates violence (it stands for “fantasy violence”), while 9% think it means “family viewing.” And only 11% know that the rating EI means educational or informational programming. Among parents with any child ages 2-18, 61% know that TV-14 means the show may be inappropriate for children under age 14 and just over half (54%) know that TV-MA means for mature audiences.


  • One in six parents (16%) say they have ever used the V-Chip to block specific TV content – not a statistically significant change from 15% in 2004 (but up from 7% in 2001).
  • Eight in 10 parents (82%) say they have purchased a new TV since January 2000, when the requirement that all TVs over 13″ be equipped with a V-Chip went into effect. Among those parents, more than half (57%) aren’t aware that they have a V-Chip.
  • Among parents who have a V-Chip and are aware of it, 46% say they have used it.
  • Among those who have used the V-Chip, 71% say they found it “very” useful.


  • One in three parents (34%) say they are “very” concerned that their children are exposed to too many ads in the TV programming they watch, while 35% say they’re “somewhat” concerned, 18% say they are “not too” concerned and 11% are “not at all” concerned.
  • Among parents who are concerned about advertising, ads for toys top the list (18%), followed by video games (17%), clothing (17%), alcohol/beer (11%) and food (10%).

You can find out more about the movie ratings system here.

You can find the ratings for individual films here.


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