When you’re with your family, ready to watch a new show on Netflix or Hulu, and you see the “TV MA” rating, you might be curious about what it means. Broadcast and cable television networks, along with program producers, provide various TV ratings to inform the public about the age-appropriateness of their content. These ratings are designed to assist parents in determining which shows are suitable for their children to watch.
TV MA stands for “Mature Audience Only.” This rating indicates that the show is intended for adults and may not be suitable for children under the age of 17. The content of TV MA rated shows often includes strong language, explicit sexual activity, and/or graphic violence. A popular example of a TV MA rated show is “Game of Thrones.”
In essence, a TV MA rated show is comparable to an R-rated movie, but it may contain even more intense or explicit content. It is essential for parents and viewers to be aware of these ratings to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of the content for their audience.
TV Parental Guideline ratings
It is evident that the content we consume in America has become increasingly sexual and violent in recent years.
To address the growing concerns of parents about the nature of the content their children are exposed to, the US Congress proposed in 1996 that the television industry should assign ratings to their shows.
About ten days after the proposal, in 1997, the voluntary TV Parental Guideline ratings were implemented.
These ratings are presented to viewers before the programming begins, alerting them to the type of content they are about to watch:
- TV-Y: Meant to be suitable for all children. Designed for a very young audience.
- TV-Y7 FV: Meant for children age 7 and older. May be more appropriate for children who can distinguish between make-believe and reality. The “FV” label indicates shows with more “fantasy violence,” usually more intense or combative than those with just the TV-Y7 rating.
- TV-G: Meant to be suitable for all ages, though the content may be of little interest to children. These shows have little to no violence, mild language, and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.
- TV-PG: May have content inappropriate for children younger than 7. It may include coarse language, some sexual content, suggestive dialogue, or moderate violence.
- TV-14: Contains material that most parents would find unsuitable for children under 14. Programs with this rating have intensely suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, or intense violence.
- TV-MA: This content is meant to be viewed by adults only and is not suitable for children under 17. Programs with this rating may include crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, and graphic violence.
These TV Parental Guideline ratings aim to assist parents in making informed decisions about the suitability of TV shows for their children based on age-appropriate content.
The content descriptors
As evident from the TV ratings provided above, the classification of shows is primarily based on three main categories: sexual content, language, and violence.
The combination and balance of these categories determine the final rating assigned to a show. For instance, a show with significant sexual dialogue and situations but minimal or no violence may still receive a TV MA rating. Similarly, a show with intense violence but no sexual content may also fall under this rating.
To offer further insights into the content, content descriptors were introduced to complement the ratings. These descriptors provide specific information about the content within the show, allowing parents to make informed decisions based on their individual beliefs and parenting style.
The content descriptors are as follows:
- D – Sexual or suggestive dialogue
- L – Coarse or crude language
- S – Sexual situations
- V – Violence
Since each parent’s values and comfort levels vary, these descriptors can help them make tough choices according to their preferences. For instance, some parents may be fine with sexual or suggestive dialogue but may want to avoid sexual situations. In such cases, seeing a “D” descriptor might be acceptable, while an “S” descriptor could signal that the show is not suitable for their children.
TV MA Shows That Have Done Well
The TV MA rating serves as a warning to adult viewers that the show they are about to watch may contain content unsuitable for viewers under the age of 17.
However, it’s essential to recognize that TV MA rated shows can span a wide spectrum in terms of content and themes.
For instance, there can be a significant difference between shows like Game of Thrones and Ted Lasso, despite both carrying the TV MA rating.
Game of Thrones, for instance, is known for its intense and graphic content, including violence, sexual situations, and mature themes.
On the other hand, Ted Lasso, while also having a TV MA rating, is a comedy series with milder content and themes compared to Game of Thrones.
To provide you with a sense of the type of content associated with the TV MA rating, here are some popular TV MA shows:
- The Witcher
- Game of Thrones
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- Peaky Blinders
- The Walking Dead
- Squid Game
- Breaking Bad
- Sex and the City
It’s worth noting that each show receives a single blanket rating for the entire series, but the content can vary significantly from episode to episode.
As a viewer, it’s essential to be aware of the specific themes and content within each episode to make informed choices about what to watch.
Differences between TV-MA and R ratings
At first glance, TV-MA and R ratings may seem similar due to the language used to describe them. Both indicate content that is intended for adult audiences and may contain elements like explicit language, sexual activity, and violence.
However, there are two key differences between TV-MA and R ratings:
- Rating System: TV-MA is part of the TV/broadcasting rating system, while R is part of the movie rating system. The TV rating system is specific to television shows and programs, while the movie rating system applies to films shown in theaters.
- Restrictiveness: The most significant difference lies in the restrictiveness of the ratings. TV-MA is the most restrictive rating in the TV system, indicating that the content is not suitable for children under 17. On the other hand, R is not the most restrictive rating in the movie system. There is a more restrictive rating called “NC-17,” which means “no one 17 and under admitted,” even with an Adult Guardian present.
As a result, a TV-MA rating encompasses content that falls under both R and NC-17 rated content in the movie rating system. This is why you mentioned that “a TV MA show is basically the equivalent of an R rated movie, but usually worse.”
How to stop kids from watching the TV MA programme?
It’s crucial for viewers and parents to be aware of these ratings and their respective content descriptors to make informed choices about what is suitable for themselves and their children.
These days, almost every TV comes equipped with parental controls to help you manage and restrict the content that children can access. The process of implementing these controls may vary depending on your TV’s make and model. You can find specific instructions by searching “Parental Controls [Your TV Brand]” on platforms like YouTube.
Parental controls can be applied at three levels to prevent children from watching TV MA content:
- Cable/broadcasting: You can set up controls to block TV-MA content on cable or broadcast channels.
- Smart TV app store: For smart TVs, you can lock down the app store, requiring a password to access certain or all apps, and restrict the ability to download new apps.
- Within the app: Many streaming apps, like Netflix, allow you to set up parental controls for individual profiles. This enables you to block specific content ratings, such as TV-MA, for particular users.
With the advancement of smart TVs and streaming devices like Roku and Firestick, there is now a vast range of content available through various apps. Parental controls play a crucial role in managing access to this content and ensuring children only view age-appropriate material. By utilizing the available controls, you can create a safer and more suitable TV viewing environment for your family.
Wrapping it up
TV-MA is a TV rating that stands for “Mature Audiences” only. This rating indicates that the content is intended for adults and may not be suitable for children under the age of 17. TV-MA programs often include elements like strong language, explicit sexual activity, and graphic violence.
TV-MA is similar to an R-rated movie, but it can sometimes feature even more intense content. Popular examples of TV MA shows are Game of Thrones and Ted Lasso.
If you’re considering using parental controls to block TV-MA content, ensure that you apply restrictions at the following levels:
- Cable/broadcasting: Set up controls to block TV-MA content on cable or broadcast channels.
- Smart TV app store: Lock down the app store with a password, preventing unauthorized access or downloads of apps with mature content.
- Within the app: Many streaming apps offer parental control settings that allow you to block specific content ratings, such as TV-MA, for individual user profiles.
By utilizing parental controls effectively, you can create a safer viewing environment for your family and ensure that children only access age-appropriate content.
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