What does TV-MA mean? If you’ve ever turned on a TV show and seen those letters pop up in the upper left corner of the screen, you may have wondered what that rating means.
Today, you will find out what is the meaning of TV-MA and if it’s safe for kids or adults to watch. We’ll also provide a in-depth look at related topics that can help you understand and make informed decisions about this rating.
With that, let’s get started.
What Is the Meaning of the TV-MA Rating?
TV-MA is a rating that is given to television programs to indicate that it’s for “Mature Audiences”. This means that the show may contain graphic violence (V), strong sexual activity (S), and/or crude language (L). Due to the type of content in these shows, they are not suitable for children under the age of 17.
This rating is usually displayed in the upper left-hand corner of the screen during the first few seconds of a program. This is done to ensure that viewers are aware of the content they are about to see.
In addition to the TV-MA rating, you may also see other letters at the bottom of the screen. These letters are called content descriptors and they give more information about what type of content is in the show.
- V – Graphic Violence
- S – Sexual Activity
- L – Crude Language
Let us take a more in-depth look at what each of these letters mean
Examples of TV MA Content
The following are some examples of content that you may see in a TV-MA program:
Graphic Violence (V): This could include scenes of people being killed, tortured, or maimed. It might also include war footage or car accidents.
Crude Language (L): This includes swearing and other language that might be considered offensive.
Strong Sexual Activity (S): This could include scenes of people having sex, nudity, or sexual violence.
Below is the trailer for Game of Thrones, a TV show that carries a TV-MA rating.
What Ages Can Watch TV-MA Shows?
As we mentioned earlier, children under the age of 17 should not be allowed to watch TV-MA shows. Due to the graphic and adult nature of the content, it’s not suitable for anyone under that age.
You will often find that popular TV-MA shows like Squid Games, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead will often contain a lot of gratuitous violence, strong language, and nudity, all not suitable for young, developing minds.
Should Children Watch TV-MA Programs?
You might be wondering if it’s ever okay for children to watch TV-MA programs.
An Article by Common Sense Media “What’s The Impact of Media Violence on Kids?” found that:
“research shows that viewing (or playing) violent content could increase the chance that a child will act aggressively — especially if other risk factors are present, such as growing up in a violent home.
Heavy exposure to violent media can lead to desensitization too”
You can also take a look at this video, “Violence – The Effects of Violent Movies On Children and Teens” by clinical psychologist Dr. Sylvia Gearing.
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that TV-MA programs can have a negative effect on children and teens. However, it’s ultimately up to you as the parent or guardian to decide if your child is ready for this type of content.
You can also have a discussion with your kids about what they’re watching and why it might not be appropriate for them.
Understanding the TV Parental Guideline Ratings
TV-MA falls under the TV Parental Guideline Ratings system which was originally established in 1997 as a way to help parents make informed decisions about what their children watch.
There are 7 different levels of TV ratings:
- TV-Y: Suitable for very young children. The content is designed to be appropriate for children ages 2-6.
- TV-Y7: directed toward kids 7 years and older (kids who are able to distinguish between make-believe and reality); may contain “mild fantasy violence or comedic violence” that may scare younger kids
- TV-Y7-FV: fantasy violence may be more intense in these programs than others in the TV-Y7 rating
- TV-G: suitable for a general audience; not directed specifically toward kids, but contains little to no violence, sexual dialogue or content, or strong language
- TV-PG: Parental guidance suggested; may contain an inappropriate theme for younger kids and contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V), some sexual situations (S), occasional strong language (L), and some suggestive dialogue (D)
- TV-14: parents strongly cautioned — not recommended for kids younger than 14; contains one or more of the following: intense violence (V), intense sexual situations (S), strong language (L), and intensely suggestive dialogue. Learn more about the TV-14 Rating.
- TV-MA: designed for adults and may be unsuitable for kids under 17; contains one or more of the following: graphic violence (V), strong sexual activity (S), and/or crude language (L)
As you can see, TV-MA is the most restrictive rating and is not meant for children or even teens.
The ratings also contain content descriptors, some of which we highlighted earlier. These are:
- V: Violence
- S: Sexual Situations
- L: Language
- D: Dialogue
- FV: Fantasy Violence
You will often find these content descriptors listed alongside the TV rating. For example, a show might be rated TV-MA.
Is TV-MA worse than R: What’s the difference between the two?
Most people know what Rated R movies entail, but how does TV-MA compare? The differences between Rated R vs TV-MA can be difficult to understand for those who are not familiar with the ratings system. Here is a breakdown of the difference between the two.
TV-MA: This is a television rating, meaning it is applied to programs that air on TV. The rating indicates that the content is suitable for mature audiences only and may not be appropriate for children under 17 due to strong violence, strong sexual content, and/or crude language.
Rated R: This is a movie rating, meaning it is applied to movies that are released in theaters. Developed by the MPAA, this rating indicates that the content is suitable for mature audiences only and may not be appropriate for children under 17. Rated R movies may include scenes of strong violence, strong sexual content, and/or crude language.
In general, the content that would receive a TV-MA rating can often be more intense than the content that would get an R rating.
Rated R movies are typically edited before they are released in order to avoid an even higher NC-17 rating, which would limit the movie’s release to only a few theaters.
TV-MA content is not typically edited before it airs, meaning that what you see on TV is often more graphic than what you would see in a Rated R movie.
How to Stop Kids From Watching TV-MA Shows?
It can sometimes be difficult to keep kids from watching TV-MA shows, especially if they have access to a TV or computer in their bedroom.
Here are a few tips to prevent your children from watching content that is not appropriate for them:
- Use Parental Controls on the TV: Most TVs have the ability to block certain channels or ratings with the V-Chip. You can use this feature to block TV-MA rated shows from being viewed on your TV.
- Use Parental Controls From the Cable TV Provider – If you have cable TV, you can utilize the parental controls that are provided by the cable company. This will allow you to block specific TV show ratings from being viewed on your TV.
- Use Parental Controls on Streaming Services – If your kids watch a lot of Netflix or Hulu, you can use the parental controls that are provided by these services. This will allow you to block TV-MA shows from being viewed on your account.
- Talk to Your Kids About TV Ratings – It’s important to talk to your kids about the different TV ratings and what they mean. Explain to them why you don’t want them watching TV-MA shows. Let them know that the content is not appropriate for their age group.
- Keep the TV in a common area of the house – By keeping the TV in a common area of the house, you can better monitor what your kids are watching.
Most Popular TV MA Shows
The popular streaming services Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max etc all offer a variety of TV-MA programs. Many of these shows are highly rated and critically acclaimed.
Some popular TV-MA shows include:
- Breaking Bad
- The Sopranos
- Game of Thrones
- The Walking Dead
- Ted Lasso
- The Wire
- True Blood
These are just a few of the many popular TV-MA shows that are available to watch.
TV-MA on Disney Plus
Disney is generally known for family-friendly entertainment. However, Disney Plus has added some TV-MA content, but not without some controversy.
The Parents Television and Media Council spoke out against the addition of TV-MA shows to Disney+, stating:
“While we applaud Disney+ for improving their parental controls, the mere presence of MA- and R-rated content violates the trust of families, and may well turn them off entirely.” The PTC went on to say that Disney Plus’ “TV-MA-rated fare will forever tarnish its family friendly crown.”
Despite the backlash, Disney+ has continued to add TV-MA shows to their platform.
Some of the more popular options include:
- Marvel’s Daredevil
- Marvel’s Jessica Jones
- Marvel’s Luke Cage
- Marvel’s Punisher
Parents can limit what their kids can watch on Disney+ by taking advantage of the streaming service’s parental controls.
TV-MA is the most severe rating assigned to television programs by the TV Parental Guidelines. These television programs may contain graphic violence, strong language, and explicit sexual content. They are not suitable for children under 17.
If you have children in your home, it’s important to be aware of the TV-MA rating and take steps to prevent your kids from watching these shows. You can do this by using parental controls on your TV, from your cable provider, and on streaming services. You can also talk to them about the different TV ratings and explain why these shows are not appropriate for them.
Now, I want to switch gears and hear what you have to say. What’s your thoughts on TV-MA programming? Would you allow your kids to watch it? Let me know in the comments!