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Grand Theft Auto V and Online: A Parent’s Guide

The Grand Theft Auto series of games has quite a long history of controversy. The series is jam-packed with violence, drugs, and sex galore, so it isn’t a surprise that some people can’t stand the series. If you’re a parent looking to buy GTA V for your kid, you may be hesitant after hearing about all these controversies.

Luckily for you, I’m here to help. As someone with over 600 hours in GTA V… I am more than qualified to address any questions or concerns you may have about whether or not this game is appropriate for your kid to play. Here in this guide, we’ll be covering every topic you need to be aware of.

First we’ll provide you with an overview and answers to FAQs. Then, we’ll go into detail about each of the elements of GTA that has parents questioning if it’s right for their child. Let’s get right into the guide!

Grand Theft Auto V: Parental Guide – FAQ

Here are answers to some of the most popular questions parents have about GTA V.

🚫 1. What is the age rating for Grand Theft Auto V and its Online version?

GTA V and its online version are rated M for Mature by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). This rating suggests that the content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. The general consensus is that your child should be 13 or older before playing the online version. The game has been praised for its storytelling, gameplay mechanics, and the sheer scale of its world. However, it’s also known for its mature content. Just like you wouldn’t let a kiddo watch an R-rated movie without checking it out first, you’ll want to understand what’s in this game.

💬 2. What kind of content can I expect my child to encounter in the game?

Think of it as a gritty crime drama on TV; it’s meant to be realistic and not always PG. It’s essential to consider whether your kid is mature enough to handle and understand the content.

GTA V and its online counterpart feature a variety of mature content:

  • Violence: Players can engage in violent actions, including shooting, stabbing, and beating up other characters.
  • Sexual Content: There are explicit scenes, strip clubs, and various suggestive themes throughout.
  • Drug and Alcohol Use: Characters can consume drugs and alcohol, leading to impaired abilities and distorted visuals.
  • Strong Language: The dialogue is laden with strong profanity, slurs, and other adult language.
  • Mature Story Themes: The narrative explores issues like crime, betrayal, and the search for power.

🔐 3. Is there any way to limit or control what my child sees or does in the game?

GTA V doesn’t offer in-built parental controls to restrict certain types of content. However, modern gaming consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation and their platforms often have their own parental controls. These controls allow you to restrict games based on their age ratings or manage online interactions. Keep in mind, these controls are not foolproof, and active monitoring and conversation with your child is always recommended.

🌐 4. How does GTA Online differ from the main game in terms of content?

GTA Online is an open-world multiplayer mode where players can interact with others around the world. This means:

  • Unpredictable Player Interactions: Your child might encounter players who use strong language, display aggressive behavior, or engage in other forms of inappropriate conduct.
  • Extended Content: GTA Online often receives updates that introduce new activities and missions, some of which might have mature themes.
  • Microtransactions: The online version offers in-game purchases, so be aware of potential spending.

💵 5. What’s this about spending real money in the game?

Answer: That’s in reference to GTA Online’s in-game currency, Shark Cards. Players can buy these with real money to get virtual currency in the game. While it’s entirely optional, it can be tempting for some players. It’s a good idea to have a chat about in-game purchases and maybe even set up parental controls if you’re concerned.

🤔 6. Should I let my child play GTA V or its online version?

This decision ultimately rests with each individual parent, based on what they believe is suitable for their child. It’s crucial to understand the mature themes of the game and to consider your child’s age, maturity level, and ability to differentiate between game fiction and real-world actions. Discussing the content with your child and setting clear boundaries can also be beneficial.


The game is called Grand Theft Auto, so as you can expect crime is a common theme of the game. Players will be able to steal vehicles such as cars, trucks, helicopters, airplanes, boats, and more. They will also be able to engage in robberies. These robberies can be of liquor stores, gas stations, banks, casinos, and various government facilities.

Holding up the store in GTA V - Crime is part of the game
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

Additionally, there are many other crimes that the player can be involved in, such as assault, murder, drug use, prostitution, and more. But we will be covering all that in more detail further in this article.

Violence, Blood, & Gore

Grand Theft Auto 5 is a shooter: this means that a significant amount of time playing the game will be spent shooting a variety of weapons at various different enemies. There are assault rifles, shotguns, melee weapons, and even explosives like frag grenades and RPGs.

Overlooking police cars with a gun in GTA V
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

Additionally, the enemies that you will be killing in this game include gang members, mafia members, and even police officers, soldiers, and innocent civilians. Those last three enemy types in particular are what have really caused controversy for GTA games in the past. I once heard someone describe GTA as a “cop-killing simulator” and have to say that’s pretty accurate.

In addition to killing these types of people with firearms and explosives… They can also be run over and with vehicles, such as cars, semi-trucks, motorcycles, etc. GTA V must be a pretty gorey game, right? Surprisingly, no. There is no dismemberment of limbs in GTA V and the gore is minimal most of the time. There is one scene in the game where a character gets their head stomped on several times, however. As for blood, there is a lot of it throughout the game.

Torture & Disturbing Themes

Torturing is a part of GTA V that parents should be aware of
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

In the single-player campaign of GTA V, there is one mission in particular in which you are tasked with torturing a man to try and get information out of him. The player will get to use a variety of torture methods on him, such as using a wrench to beat him, waterboarding him, electrically shocking him and even pulling out a tooth from his mouth using some pliers. It’s a pretty disturbing scene, especially for younger audiences.

Another thing that you can do in the game is kidnap innocent civilians and sell them to a cult of cannibals to be presumably eaten. This is something some players might miss, as you need to be playing as the character Trevor Philips and can only do it when you randomly encounter an NPC(s) on the side of the road asking for a ride. The player then has the option to drop them off at their requested destination, or they can sell them to the cannibals. No cannibalism is shown on screen, it’s just implied.

Drug Use

Drug use in GTA V
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

Drug use is very common throughout the game. Marijuana is the most common drug scene, especially in the single-player campaign. The player has several opportunities to use it throughout the game… Such as picking up a bong at their in-game house and using it. Upon using it, a visual affect will be applied to the player’s screen, causing colors to become more vibrant and the screen to move around differently.

Additionally, there are also many other drugs that are mentioned, shown, and used on screen. This includes drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, acid, and others. During a few missions in the online portion of the game, the player will undergo an acid trip and walk through a variety of hallucinated scenes. Additionally, there are also times when characters will be drugged against their will, such as in a mission early on where the character Michael gets drugged with DMT by his own son.

Sex & Nudity

Sex and sexual themes are common in GTA V. Characters will often make sexual references and sexual themes are commonly displayed on in-game TV shows, radios, and advertisements. There is also a strip club in-game that the player can visit. They can throw money at strippers and even receive lap dances. The strippers will have their breasts exposed and will wear scandalous clothes, but no other parts will be displayed.

Sex & Nudity in GTA V
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

Sexual acts are also shown semi-commonly throughout the game. In several cutscenes, characters will be shown engaging in sex, although they will be fully clothed and no nudity is shown. The player can also pay prostitutes for a variety of sexual acts. Like the previously mentioned cutscenes, no actual nudity is put on display.

Online Multiplayer

There is an optional online multiplayer component to GTA V that the player can partake in. This online component will expose the player to many other real-world players who also own GTA V. In some missions, players will be required to cooperate with one another. While in others they will compete with one another in races, minigames, deathmatches (a mode that involves multiple players shooting at one another), and more.

GTA Online for kids?
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

I strongly recommend against letting your child play this if they are too young or not mature enough to handle online interactions. Oftentimes other players can be toxic, insulting one another, cussing, using slurs, destroying another in-game property, etc. It’s also possible that your child themselves may engage in toxic behaviors. You should make sure your child understands the importance of being respectful to others before you allow them to play the multiplayer mode.


Exclusive to the online mode, players will be able to use real-world money to purchase in-game currency that can be spent on items in the game. You can do this by purchasing something called a sharkcard. Sharkcards can cost anywhere from $4.99 to $99.99. There is also a monthly subscription service called GTA+ that can be purchased by players.

Shark cash cards for PC
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

I must advise you to be very cautious about letting your kid have access to a game with microtransactions. There are many stories online of parents who discovered that their kids purchased hundreds of dollars worth of in-game items without their knowledge. Oftentimes these parents were unable to get refunds.

I advise you to let your kid know that they should never purchase anything with real money without your consent. You should also hide your debit and credit cards if you suspect your child might use them without your consent.

The Final Verdict

Overlooking a grey cloudy city in GTA V
(Rockstar Games / Koby Gibson Ross)

Now that we’ve covered just about everything you need to know, what’s our final verdict? Should you let your child play a game like Grand Theft Auto V? It depends. My first GTA game was Grand Theft Auto IV, which I played when I was 12. GTA IV had an overall darker story and tone than GTA V, but for the most part, was pretty similar in terms of violence and sex. I don’t recall encountering anything that was “too much” for 12-year-old me.

Then again, every child is different, and obviously, you would know your kid better than I ever would. Has your child been exposed to a lot of violence and/or disturbing imagery in shows or movies? If so, then they should be able to handle most of what GTA V has to offer (although the torture scene might be a bit much, I’d recommend you watch that on YouTube to see what exactly happens so you can make an informed decision). Also, if you are uncomfortable with your child being exposed to sexual content, then definitely keep them away. Sexual content is very common in GTA V.

But I think that the most important thing you should watch out for is the online interactions with other players. Do NOT let your kid play the multiplayer mode of GTA Online if they are younger than 16 and/or you don’t think they can handle being bullied. The GTA Online community can get toxic at times, and bullying can really impact a young person’s self-esteem. And if your child has a history of bullying others, please keep them away from the online mode so they don’t add to the toxicity.

We hope that you found this GTA V Guide For Parents informative! Do you have any questions for us still? Feel free to leave them down in the comments section. And make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more regular content on other great games, including GTA V.

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