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Consumer Research

ESRB Survey: Parental Awareness and Use

Conducted by Hart Research Associates, ESRB commissions surveys to regularly assess parents' awareness and use of the ESRB rating system. The latest study, conducted in July of 2018, includes the following results:

  • 86% of parents are aware of the ESRB rating system

  • 74% regularly check a game's rating before making a purchase

  • 66% are aware of content descriptors, 85% of whom check them regularly

ESRB Ratings: Parental Awareness & Use 1999-2018 Chart

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

According to a survey of parents conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, parents said that among all entertainment rating systems (TV, movies, music and games), the ESRB ratings are the most useful, with 91% finding them "very useful" (58%) to "somewhat useful" (33%). - "Parents, Children & Media" [June 2007]

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC conducted research about the ESRB rating system, which found:

  • 89% of parents are involved in the purchase or rental of a video game for their child

  • 87% of parents are aware of ESRB ratings

  • 73% use ratings "all," "nearly all" or "most of the time" when buying games

  • 87% report being "very" to "somewhat" satisfied with ESRB ratings

  • 94% say ESRB ratings are "moderately" to "very" easy to understand

Source: Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress, "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children," [April 2007]

FTC on the ESRB

"Self-regulation, such as that done by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for video games, is an effective way for companies to modify their behavior to protect consumers where the government could or should not act ...The electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code and enforcement of restrictions on marketing, advertising and selling mature-rated games to younger audiences." - FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Self-Regulation Conference in Washington, DC [June 24, 2014]

"Of the three entertainment sectors [movies, music, and video games], the electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code..." and "...compliance with the ESRB code was high in all media." - Report to Congress [December 2009]

"The video game industry outpaces the movie and music industries in the three key areas that the Commission has been studying for the past decade: (1) restricting target-marketing of mature-rated products to children; (2) clearly and prominently disclosing rating information; and (3) restricting children's access to mature-rated products at retail." - Report to Congress [December 2009]

"The video game industry continues to do an excellent job of clearly and prominently disclosing rating information in television, print, and Internet advertising and on product packaging..." - Report to Congress [December 2009]

"The Commission commends the ESRB for its new online ratings [sic] summaries...this tool should enhance parental understanding of the ratings and the ratings process." - Report to Congress [December 2009]

"The [ESRB rating system] is a useful and important tool that parents increasingly use to help them make informed decisions about games for their children." - Report to Congress [April 2007]

FTC Mystery Shops

The FTC also periodically conducts nationwide undercover audits, or "mystery shops," of movie theaters and DVD, music, and video game retailers. Their most recent survey found that 87% of individuals under the age of 17 were turned away when trying to purchase or rent Mature-rated games.

FTC Mystery Shopper Audits: 2000-2013 Chart