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Protecting children from harmful content - BSA

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new study has underlined the importance of safeguards to protect children from harmful content on television and the internet.

Nearly nine out of ten children over the age of 10 told the Children’s Media Use Study 2020 that they’d seen content that made them upset during the past year.

The research, which was carried out for the Broadcasting Standards Authority and NZ On Air, found they were most often upset by seeing animal torture and sex scenes. But most of them knew to change channels or click out of a website and tell an adult.

The research was last carried out six years ago and the latest findings reveal changes in behaviour over that time. It found parents and caregivers were more proactive now in having home rules for managing content, including 77-80% supervising TV and internet consumption, compared with 17-26% in 2014.

But they still need encouragement and support with using parental locks and filtering software to protect their children from accessing content that could be harmful.

BSA Chief Executive Belinda Moffat said: "We are delighted to see that parents and caregivers are being more proactive about protecting their children from harmful content. They have a good understanding of the ways their children’s behaviour can be negatively impacted by what they see and are also far more likely to stop their children watching adult only content than they were in 2014 (49% v 23%).

"It is challenging for children to navigate the wide range of content that is now so easily accessible to them. This is why classifications, parental locks and filtering software are so important and it is heartening to see more families using safeguards and supporting kids in this dynamic environment."

Parents reported that their children’s behaviour could be negatively impacted by what they saw, including 32% learning inappropriate words, 20% having nightmares or sleeping difficulties, 19% imitating aggressive behaviour and 15% engaging in behaviour that was inappropriate for their age.

Safeguards including programme classifications, warnings and the 8.30pm watershed on free-to-air (FTA) television were recently updated by the BSA and broadcasters to keep up with changing viewing habits.

The changes were announced in May, along with the launch of the website to provide information about ways parents and caregivers can manage TV content in the home, including how to use parental locks.

The study found that adults aren’t the only ones to use the safeguards: 51% of children use classification labels and 47% heed warnings on TV to know that content is not suitable for them. This has risen substantially since 2014, showing that these protections are important safeguards.

Belinda Moffat added: "These safeguards for free-to-air TV are equally important across other platforms. The findings have told us what upsets children, so anyone who produces content for them or has a role in protecting them from harmful content can see where to focus their efforts on harm reduction and safeguards.

"The research also shows that parents and caregivers continue to have a big role to play in protecting children, with 89-92% of tamariki feeling better after they have told an adult about something that has upset them."

"We undertook this research with NZ On Air, with the intention that it will be useful to the wide range of organisations and agencies in New Zealand that work to provide children with safe access to appropriate, stimulating and entertaining content. We hope it will help to guide children’s positive interactions with content and to mitigate harms," Ms Moffat said.

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