LOS ANGELES -- U.S. parents rely more on television ratings and less on the high-tech V-chip to choose the shows their children watch, according to a survey released Tuesday.
While 40% of U.S. families own a television set with a V-chip installed to block designated programs with sex or violence, only 17% of those parents use the device, the Kaiser Family Foundation found.
That means just 7% of all parents have relied on the V-chip, according to the survey. In comparison, more than half of all parents have used TV ratings.
"A year and a half after its introduction, the V-chip is being used by a small minority of parents," said foundation President Drew Altman. "TV ratings are more of a mainstream resource for concerned moms and dads."
More than 53% who bought television sets after V-chips became standard equipment in January 2000 don't know that their set includes one.
Among parents aware of the option, about one in three has programmed it to prevent their children from watching certain shows, according to the survey from the independent foundation, which analyzes health issues.
Increasing criticism of TV fare in the 1990s led to implementation of the V-chip and the ratings system. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required all new TV sets to contain a V-chip.
To use the chip, parents must activate and program it.
The 56% of parents who say they have used the TV ratings system for their children is similar to the proportion who say they use parental advisories on music (50%) and video and computer games (59%).
Movie ratings, the Kaiser Foundation said, are used by 84% of parents.
Rating designations include TV-Y7 for children 7 and older, TV-14 for children 14 and older, FV for fantasy violence, V for violence and D for suggestive dialogue.
Parents are divided about whether government should regulate TV content. About 48% favor and about 47% oppose new government regulations to limit violence and sex in TV shows during the early-evening hours.
The survey of 800 parents of children ages 2-17 was conducted in May and June. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points for the total survey and plus or minus six percentage points for parents of children ages 2-6.
Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.