The Parental Guidelines system for the United States was first proposed on December 19, 1996 by the United States Congress, the television industry and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and went into effect by January 1, 1997 on most major U.S. broadcast and cable networks in response to public concerns of increasingly explicit sexual content, graphic violence and strong profanity in television programs. It was established as a voluntary-participation system, with ratings to be determined by the individually participating broadcast and cable networks.
- TV-Y (suitable for all children)
- TV-Y7 (suitable for children over the age of 7 years old)
- TV-G (suitable for all audiences)
- TV-PG (parental guidance suggested)
- TV-14 (parents strongly cautioned)
- TV-MA (mature audiences only)
The content descriptors commonly seen with the main ratings are as follows:
- FV: Fantasy violence (only used with the TV-Y7 rating for action-oriented children's shows).
- D: Used with the TV-PG and TV-14 rating to denote the use of dialogue that hints at something sexual, violent, disturbing, or drug-related. This rating is not intended to be used for the TV-MA rating, partially because by then, most sexual activities will usually include full sex scenes, and it is generally inappropriate for MA-rated shows to have dialogue in them. However, some networks opt to use D, in tandem with the TV-MA rating.
- L: Used with the TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA rating to denote instances of crude, offensive language (profanity, vulgar slang, racial and ethnic slurs, etc.).
- S: Used with the TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA rating to denote instances of sexual content (including innuendo, intercourse, nudity, references to alternate sexualities [homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexualism], and references to sexual acts and fetishes).
- V: Used with the TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA rating to denote instances of violence, gore, threat, and scenes depicting peril or distress.