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Using the V-Chip: Parental Controls and American Rating Systems


The V-Chip, also referred to as Parental Controls, is a feature on a television that gives an administrator the power to block programming based on specific criteria. V-Chip technology was addressed in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which targeted the growing amount of violence, language and nudity on television. All televisions are now equipped with a V-Chip, which can be protected with a 4-digit password or PIN. Below is a list of American and Canadian rating guidelines often encountered:

Federal Communications Commission TV Ratings:

TV-Y: All children.
TV-Y7: Children 7 and up.
TV-G: General audience - suitable for children and adults.
TV-PG: Parental guidance suggested - violence, sexual situations, coarse language and/or suggestive dialogue.
TV-14: Parents strongly cautioned - intense violence, sexual situations, coarse language and/or suggestive dialogue.
TV-MA: Mature Audience Only - graphic violence, explicit sexual content and/or offensive language.

FCC Ratings Web site

Federal Communications Content Categories:

In addition to the above television ratings, the FCC also has blanket categories for all television. These 'content categories' allow the administrator the ability to block out various themes on TV based on type of content. Here is a list of the FCC content categories:

FV: Fantasy violence or cartoon violence
D: Sexual dialogue
L: Offensive launguage
S: Sexual content
V: Violence

How TV Ratings and Content Categories Work Together:

When watching a program on a broadcast station, the show's opening sequence should display the TV rating assigned to that program. In addition to the rating, a content category will usually be assigned to each program, which will further a parent decide whether or not a program is suitable for their child. An example of the TV ratings matched with a content category is the TV-Y7-FV rating, which means the program includes more fantasy violence than the regular TV-Y7 category.

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Ratings:

G: General audience. All ages admitted.
PG: Parental guidance suggested. Some material not suitable for small children.
PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material inappropriate for children under 13.
R: Restricted. Entrance for people under 17 years of age requires parent of guardian present.
NC-17: Not classified. No one under 17 years of ages admitted.
X: Adults only.
NR: Not rated. Film was too intense to warrant a MPAA rating.

MPAA Ratings Web site

Important Disclaimers:

It is important to understand that the FCC television ratings and content categories only pertain to over-the-air broadcast stations and networks. They do not affect cable stations, though some stations do include the television ratings and content categories within their programming as an added service of their product.

The MPAA ratings are for movies only. They do not pertain to programming that was made exclusively for the television, but when on TV the movie will be assigned a TV rating.

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