If there’s one thing in this world that kids love, it’s video games. But how can you know if a game is right for your children? So many games include violent imagery, destruction, adult themes, and even depictions of alcohol and tobacco use.
Thankfully, there’s a surefire way to know whether a game is okay for your kids: the ESRB rating.
The Electronic Safety Ratings Board, or ESRB, was created in the 1990s to help parents identify which games are right for their kids. At the time of its creation, the ESRB was largely a response to what parents at the time saw as a proliferation of violent imagery in games they felt were being marketed to children.
In the modern era, games are sorted into rating categories that help you decide which titles are safe for your kids to play.
E for Everyone
Games rated “E” are ideal for any age group. Even young kids would likely not find any disturbing imagery in an E-rated game. This rating is usually applied to colorful, friendly video games like the Mario franchise or similar fantasy games. Sports titles also often fall into this category. This rating is comparable to G-rated films.
The “E10+” rating is something of a half-step between the E and T ratings. Games rated “E10+” are suitable for children ages ten and up, and typically include more mischief and cartoonish violence than E-rated games. These titles are typically comparable to Saturday morning cartoons, with superheroes bashing robots and aliens in over-the-top conflicts. The closest film rating to E10+ would be PG.
T for Teen
Games that are rated “T” are suitable for teenagers, usually indicating children 13 and up. These games typically fall into a similar category as PG-13 films and could include some mildly distressing themes, some use of tobacco and alcohol, and slightly more realistic violence than E-rated games. These games would typically not be suitable for children, and should only be purchased for teenagers.
M for Mature
M-rated games are essentially like R-rated films: they’re suitable for people aged 17 and up. These are typically much more violent, adult-oriented, or otherwise disturbing, than other games. While some parents don’t mind their younger children seeing T-rated games, M-rated titles should absolutely not be purchased for children.
Notably, many games feature online functionality that allows players to communicate with one another. Even in E-rated games, these online features could result in children being exposed to some mature content. In these cases, it’s best to supervise when kids are playing online to help them avoid contact