Back to School with the TV Parental Guidelines

Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the small black box filled with letters that appears in the upper left-hand side of your screen at the start of most television shows or movies you see on TV? That’s the TV Parental Guidelines, also known as the TV ratings system, helping parents to make smart decisions about which TV shows are age-appropriate for their families.

Television is often a large part of our lives, particularly the lives of our children, and has only played an increased role during the ongoing pandemic. According to research conducted by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board (the Board) in August 2020, 64% of parents said TV usage has increased among their children. As all Americans consume more video programming, the TV Parental Guidelines continue to serve as a resource to parents looking to make more informed decisions about what TV shows their kids are watching.

The TV Parental Guidelines is excited to partner with the National PTA during Back-To-School Week and provide parents and educators with the resources they need to ensure an enjoyable and appropriate television experience. This includes the launch of new guidance for how video streaming services can incorporate the TV ratings into their services. We know there are a growing number of streaming platforms available to children and families. According to the August 2020 survey of parents, 84% of children are watching some content via streaming services. Through new guidance (described below) the Board aims to ensure that parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional TV networks and streaming services.   

About the TV Parental Guidelines 

The television industry designed the TV Parental Guidelines—also known as the TV ratings system—to give parents more information about the content and age-appropriateness of TV programs. 

The TV Parental Guidelines include two elements: (1) an age-based rating ranging from TV-Y to TV-MA that provides guidance about the age group for which a program is appropriate and (2) content descriptors indicating that a program may contain suggestive dialogue (D), coarse or crude language (L), sexual situations (S), or violence (V). Here is a quick guide: 

  • TV-Y: Programming is typically appropriate for children of all ages.  
  • TV-Y7: Programming is designed for children ages seven and older.  
  • TV-Y7-FV: Indicates that a program contains “fantasy violence” that may be more intense or combative than other TV-Y7 programs.  
  • TV-G: Programming is for a general audience and typically most parents would find this programming suitable for all ages. It contains little or no violence, no strong language and little or no sexual dialogue or situations.  
  • TV-14: Programming contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, or intense violence.  
  • TV-MA: Programming is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 17. This program may contain one or more of the following: crude indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. 

A full guide to the TV ratings can be found here and you can download, print and share with your PTA and school community. The TV Parental Guidelines website is also a resource for parents and educators looking for information on the TV ratings. 

Here is what else you should know about the TV Parental Guidelines: 

  • The TV ratings can be used in conjunction with the V-Chip for network television—a device built into most television sets—to allow parents to block out programs they don’t want their children to see. Parental control technology in cable and satellite set-top boxes can also be used with the TV Parental Guidelines to block programs based on their rating. 
  • The Board is comprised of experts from the television industry as well as public interest advocates—including the National PTA—who are responsible for ensuring there is uniformity and consistency in applying the TV Parental Guidelines. The Board also reviews complaints about specific program ratings to help ensure ratings accuracy. 
  • Viewers can contact the Board with questions or concerns about the TV ratings system and controls by mail, email or phone. Individual ratings complaints are passed on to the network on which the program was shown for a direct response. 
  • The Board conducts a biannual survey to understand how parents view the ratings. A complete review of the key findings from 2020 can be found here. According to the Board’s 2020 survey, 95 percent of parents are satisfied with the accuracy of the ratings for TV shows on broadcast and cable television, including more than half who are very satisfied. Four in five parents (80 percent) maintain a favorable opinion of the TV ratings system—up from 76% in 2018. 

About the New Streaming Guidance  

Members of the Board include many companies that operate some of the newest and most popular video streaming services available today including, among others, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, and Tubi. Given the rising popularity of these streaming services and others, the Board created a Streaming Task Force (the Task Force) to evaluate how TV ratings are being made available to parents on new technologies.  

In recent months, the Task Force engaged in conversations with Board member companies that operate video streaming services and initiated informal discussions with outside providers about how they are applying ratings to their own content. The result of these conversations is new ratings guidance designed to help ensure parents and families encounter a consistent ratings experience across traditional television networks and streaming platforms.   

Examples of the new ratings guidance for streaming services include the following recommended best practices: 

  • For all streaming video content that is rated, streaming services should display TV ratings on-screen at the time that a consumer initiates the playback of video. 
  • Video streaming services should apply TV ratings to all content that has been shown on television with ratings and all content that is originally produced for the streaming environment, including on an episode-by-episode basis for episodically rated programs. 
  • Video streaming services should include age-based ratings within the product experience (e.g., as part of narrative program summaries contained on program description screens or within online menus and navigation guides), to the extent practicable after taking into account technical and other reasonable limitations. 
  • Video streaming services will continue to study ratings capabilities and, if practicable in the future, apply TV ratings to additional content, including, for example, archival content that originally was shown on television prior to the adoption of the TV Parental Guidelines.  

The Board knows that as technology changes, so will the ratings guidance for all content partners and providers. The Board is pleased to be comprised of so many industry professionals who are thinking ahead to ensure that parents have relevant information to be able to navigate an increasingly virtual and platform-focused world. Through the Task Force, the Board will continue to have conversations with additional video streamers to recommend they take advantage of the new guidance to help ensure that parents have a consistent ratings experience no matter where their families choose to watch programming. 


Emily Pappas it the executive secretariat of the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board. For more information about the TV Parental Guidelines, visit TVGuidelines.org 

Back to School and Back to PTA means Engaging Families and Growing Membership!

by Linda Johnson and Kirthana Krishnathasan

A new school year means new opportunities to grow your PTA. This past year was tough for so many PTAs, families and communities. As you prepare for back to school, you may be wondering how you can grow your PTA membership this year. Would you be surprised to learn that even during the pandemic, there were PTAs across the country that were able to grow their membership last year?!

We talked to some of these PTAs and here’s what they shared about what helped them engage families in their communities and grow their membership.

  • Start as early as you can, but it’s never too late to make the effort!
  • Make joining as easy as possible. Contact your state PTA to find out if there is an online membership platform available. If you use a paper form, make sure they are available everywhere. Make sure all PTA board members and the school(s) have a supply on hand. Provide a link to your join PTA page or form in every communication.
  • Ask everyone who was a member last year to support the PTA/PTSA again this year. Send out email renewal notices to everyone who was a member last year.
  • Use a QR code that links to your online membership join platform and put it everywhere! Have it on signs at all your PTA and school events, put it on your social media, on any flyers that are sent home, on signs around the school or even on business cards for your board. Check out this video on How to Create a QR code in less than a minute.
  • Ask your principal to share the value your PTA brings to your school and encourage families and teachers to support PTA.
  • Use all communication channels—in person, direct emails, newsletters, flyers, banners, school marquis, social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok.
  • Ask for people to join PTA all year at every virtual, in person or drive thru event. Check out these sample Join PTA/PTSA emails.
  • Ask everyone to join your PTA. Membership is open to anyone who supports the PTA mission: families, teachers, staff, students (if allowed), community members, public officials, etc.
  • Add a Join PTA button to all your online event(s) or volunteer sign ups.
  • PTA in a virtual way to attract more families who can’t always attend in person.
  • Focus on issues important to the families in your community. DIY Kit for Membership Growth helps you determine the needs of your community and how to align your PTA priorities.
  • Provide special benefits/perks to your PTA members: family membership, free popcorn at movie night, discount to a local business, etc.
  • Toot your PTA horn! Make sure your whole community (not just members) knows all the ways your PTA is supporting students and families. Brand everything you do so your community knows it is the PTA doing the work or providing the financial support. It takes just a few minutes to Customize PTA logos or you can use graphics from the Membership Campaign to share the value of your PTA.
  • Translate materials in the languages that are spoken by families in your community to be inclusive.

Check out the new 125 Ways to Grow Membership, 10 Myths/Truths and many other membership recruitment tools available to help you grow your PTA.

Have questions or need support, reach out to us at membership@pta.org.

Back to School with YouTube Kids and YouTube Learning

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For my family, Back to School usually means a final hurrah trip to the beach with my three sons before summer’s end, a parental attempt to readjust their sleep clocks to something reasonable (time to go to bed! time to wake up!), and fresh haircuts to start the first day just right. This year looks a lot different as COVID-19 has continued to keep us all at home and school online.

Like many of you, our house feels a little more crowded as it acts as a school, a workplace, and a home. Some days are easier than others, but you’re not alone. My wife and I have been taking advantage of the incredible resources from educators, institutions, and other learners to help us ensure our boys have the tools they need to succeed in school, despite the challenges distance learning often causes.

On a usual night, the kids use YouTube Kids to watch their favorite Creators play video games or music videos but these days, YouTube and YouTube Kids are providing more than that. Creators are taking the time to share their knowledge and provide support for those learning online or in a hybrid setting. You can find content for all ages from setting up an efficient study space for elementary students to mental and physical wellness videos all the way to SAT prep for high schoolers to help everyone during this time. We’ve found this content useful for our family and we hope it provides help to you too.

YouTube Learning and YouTube Kids are supporting families during this challenging Back to School season in the following ways:

Providing Learning Resources for Families and Students of All Ages

Across three easy to access surfaces, YouTube will feature content designed to support mental wellbeing, to prepare physical spaces, and to provide subject refreshers as students head back to school.

Connecting Experts with Parents

All the change this school year is difficult for kids – and difficult for caregivers, too. We asked child psychiatrist Nicole Graham, M.D. and “Permission to Feel” author Marc A. Brackett, Ph.D. to share some advice on getting through the ups and downs. These handouts can be shared easily be shared with your PTA and parenting communities.

Partnering with PTA to Provide Even More Resources

During National PTA Back-to-School Week, we will provide videos, discussion topics, and special content to help you and your family get back into the swing of things.

  • For each day of #PTABackToSchoolWeek, we will have a themed YouTube Kids playlist that will focus on students, teachers, and parents.
  • Racial equity playlists for kids and corresponding discussion cards will be shared so that your family can start a conversation together.
  • A YouTube Kids Parent Workshop, a 20-minute workshop designed to help parents learn how to create the right online video experience for their kids.
  • ○ A very special Back to School message created by YouTube Creators and National PTA Teachers from around the country will cap off the week to help spread encouragement for this new school year.

Malik Ducard is the VP of Content Partnerships at YouTube overseeing Learning, Social Impact, Family, Film, TV and Health. Google (YouTube) is a Proud National PTA Sponsor and receives promotional consideration, such as this blog post, as part of their sponsorship benefits. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement of Google or YouTube is implied.

Ten Questions to Help You Start the Conversation

Social media plays a big role in teens’ lives today. It’s where they connect with friends and family, celebrate major milestones, share everyday moments, and discover new passions and interests.

As parents, we want our children to connect, share and have fun through social media, and at the same time, stay safe. An important way to help ensure this is by having proactive, open and ongoing conversations with children around digital safety and setting rules together for technology use. 

Instagram, a top social media platform among teens, partnered with social media and education expert Ana Homayoun, M.A., P.P.S., author of Social Media Wellness, to create a set of 10 questions you can use to guide a conversation with your teen about Instagram. The intention is that you use these questions to learn more about how your teen is using Instagram and to ensure they’re using the app in a positive way.

  1. What do you like about Instagram?
  2. What do you wish I knew about Instagram?
  3. What are the top five Instagram accounts that you enjoy following?
  4. What are some things you think about before you post something on Instagram?
  5. If you have multiple Instagram accounts, what do you share in each account?
  6. How do likes and comments affect how you feel about a post?
  7. Do you know your followers? (If your teen has a private account, ask them how they decide who follows them.) What do you do when someone you don’t know tries to contact you via direct message?
  8. How do you feel about the amount of time you spend online?
  9. Have you ever felt uncomfortable with something you saw or an experience you had online?
  10. What would you do if you saw someone being bullied on Instagram? (Do you know about the reporting tools and the offensive comment filter on Instagram?)

National PTA has also collaborated with Instagram to create a guide for parents and guardians to help teens use social media safely and responsibly. The guide includes basics of the app, a description of the safety tools, plus a discussion guide for how to have an open conversation with teens about Instagram. It also focuses on three ways to control teen’s Instagram experience, including privacy, interactions and time on the platform.

Download the parent’s guide at PTA.org/InstagramResources and start the conversation today!

Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.