Research Framework

Rating Ethical Content System (RECS)

The Rating Ethical Content SystemThe Rating Ethical Content System (RECS) is based on the Four Component Model (Rest, 1983; Narvaez, & Rest, 1995), that identifies four psychological processes that must take place to complete an ethical action: Ethical Sensitivity, Ethical Focus, Ethical Judgment, and Ethical Action. A story with Ethical Sensitivity has evidence of concern for others and awareness of the consequences of one’s actions. A story with an Ethical Focus addresses the ethical demand in the situation, prioritizing moral goals and responsibilities over selfish interests. A story with Ethical Judgment shows characters deliberating about ethical choices. A story with Ethical Action has a character who takes several steps to reach a moral goal and perseveres to complete the ethical action.

Advantages of the Rating Ethical Content System (RECS)

RECS standardized and practical. RECS presents a standardized, scripted analysis for story evaluation. In addition to clarifying standards for developmentally-appropriate content, RECS is a tool to help parents tailor their children’s media selections based on a child’s specific ethical needs.  Thus, the rating system provides excellent moral-developmental suggestions for many different age groups, without making the decision for the user; the experts’ ratings inform and assist the consumer, rather than merely labeling a media product and suggesting parents follow these guidelines. 

RECS is focused on positive ethicality. Unlike other ratings systems, RECS focuses on the elements that support ethical development in children.  This is particularly helpful because there are few specific guidelines provided for children and parents in this regard.

RECS is theoretically and empirically supported. RECS is based upon the Four Process Model (ethical sensitivity, ethical judgment, ethical focus/motivation, ethical action), which was constructed from a review of research findings.

RECS is non-partisan and culturally flexible. Clear-cut decisions are not and cannot be made in evaluation of children’s films and stories.  Thus, a purpose of RECS is to evaluate media not as generally “good” or “bad” for the population at-large, but to clarify the nature of the ethical content in stories.  In doing so, the system successfully negotiates a variety of cultures and traditions; individuals may decide for themselves if the materials considered are appropriate for their intended use and audience. 

RECS will allow experts and non-experts to collaborate. In its final form, RECS will be available for use by the public on the World Wide Web. The website will offer expert ratings of children’s books, TV shows and movies, and at the same time allow the public to rate materials as well.