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Which video game is appropriate for a younger kid, one rated “M” or one rated “T?”

And how can you tell if lyrics on that CD are ones you’d want your child to hear?

With so many different forms of electronic entertainment available, many parents find trying to protect their children from age-inappropriate material can be challenging.

Fortunately for parents, many retailers, including the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and the Navy Exchange, have systems in place to keep mature-themed materials out of young hands.

“AAFES is dedicated to doing all we can to be a good partner with parents,” said AAFES spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan K. Potter, in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.

“When an AAFES sales associate scans the bar code on material that is intended for mature audiences,” Potter wrote, “a flag appears on the register screen that alerts the associate, and prompts him or her to check the customer’s identification for proper age.”

Navy Exchanges worldwide have similar policies, said NEX public-affairs specialist Kristine M. Sturkie.

“To purchase a game rated ‘T,’ the customer needs to be older than 13 and to purchase a game rated ‘M,’ the customer must be over 17. For movies rated ‘R,’ the customer must be over 18,” she stated in an e-mail. “Associates receive training on who may and may not purchase these items.”

Both retailers also have signs posted throughout their stores stating their policies concerning sales to underage customers.

AAFES “believes this deterrent is working quite well to discourage youngsters from attempting to purchase material that is not intended for their age group, because we rarely encounter youth trying to purchase these materials,” Potter wrote.

Gina Woodruff, operations manager at the AAFES main store at Yokota Air Base, Japan, agrees the policy is effective. While working at Yokota, she said, she’s seen very few instances of underage youths trying to buy mature-themed material.

Most music CDs with parental advisory warnings, R-rated movies, T- and M-rated video games — and even some magazines like Cosmopolitan — will prompt the cashier to check for age verification when scanned, said Woodruff.

AAFES’ main office in Dallas determines which items will trigger the prompt, she said.

These measures by retailers, along with the ratings and advisory systems used by the movie, music and video game industries, help parents make informed decisions when purchasing these products for their children, officials said.

As the mother of a 14-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old, Sara Folmar said, she believes it is important the music, movie and video game industries display ratings on their products.

“I’m pretty free with what my kids watch,” she said, adding that she either pre-screens or watches movies with her children to ensure nothing too mature is shown. She said the advisories and content descriptions posted on these products help her make decisions about what type of content her children are exposed to.

Jay McNulty said that he and his wife Liz also like having a clearly marked rating system when picking out games for their son.

“It’s easy to tell which games are age-appropriate,” he said. “You can just look at the rating on the box and see E for Everyone.”

Information on rating systems

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) provides information on its Web site on the rating system for movies. The Web site can be found at: www.mpaa.org/FilmRatings.asp

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) operates the rating system for computer and video games. Its Web site can be found at: www.esrb.org

ESRB rating symbols

Early childhood

Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Should contain no material that parents would find inappropriate.

Everyone

Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Everyone 10+

Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

Teen

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Adults only

Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should be played only by persons 18 and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

Rating pending

Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and await final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.)

Source: Entertainment Software Rating Board

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