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Research: Children and teen exposure to media content

3 February 2017

The Classification Office commissioned UMR to survey New Zealanders about media content. Results indicate there is widespread public concern about content such as sex and violence in entertainment media, particularly amongst parents.

Download the full report - Children and teen exposure to media content (PDF, 1.27MB)

Main findings

  • 76% of New Zealanders are concerned about children and teens' exposure to content in entertainment media. Those with dependent children are more likely to be concerned (84%).
  • Levels of concern about specific content were sometimes higher: 85% were concerned about violence; 83% about sexual content.
  • More than 70% of those who indicated some concern about media content identified a specific harm for children and teens.

The representative survey of 1000 adult New Zealanders [1] supports previous research showing the importance of classifications for making wise viewing choices.

Concern about media content

Chart showing level of concern about media content
Question: How concerned are you about children and teens' exposure to the contents of entertainment media like movies, TV shows and games?

Overall concern about content

76% are concerned about entertainment content

Three quarters (76%) of respondents declared concern (3-5, on a 1 to 5 scale where 1 is ‘not at all concerned’ and 5 is ‘very concerned’) about children and teens’ exposure to entertainment media content. Just under half (46%) indicated a high level of concern (4-5 on the scale). Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents declared a low level of concern or no concern (1-2).

Those with children are more concerned

Those with dependent children are more likely to be concerned about media content (84%), with 53% indicating a high level of concern. The intensity of concern declines with the age of dependent children: 55% of those with children under 13 indicated a high level of concern, dropping to 44% of those with children aged 13-15, and 43% of those with children aged 16-17.

Concern about specific types of content

Those who indicated at least some concern about media content (2-5 on the scale) were then asked about specific types of content, the options being: violence; sexual content; offensive language; and horror/supernatural content.

Chart showing level of concern about specific content such as sex and violence
Question: What kind of content are you concerned about?
* Those who chose “1 – not at all concerned” for the initial question (about media content in general) were not asked subsequent questions about specific types of content. They are included in this chart to ensure the data is representative of the full sample.

Violence and sexual content are particularly concerning

Results show that New Zealanders are most concerned about violence in media: 85% expressed concern (3-5 on the scale), with 72% indicating a high level of concern (4-5 on the scale). Sexual content was concerning to 83%, with 66% indicating a high level of concern. Those with dependent children were significantly more likely to be concerned about sexual content (89%) than respondents in general.

Word cloud showing respondents' self-reported concerns about media content
Question: What kind of content are you concerned about?

People identified a wide range of concerning content

Respondents were also given the option of describing other kinds of content they were concerned about. Top concerns included: racism; drugs; reality TV; cruelty; immorality; and sexism.

Effects of exposure

Chart showing what people think about the effects of media content on young people
Question: How might exposure to this content affect children and teens?

Those who indicated some concern about media content in the first question (2-5 on the scale) were asked how exposure to this content might affect children and teens. Of this group, 95% were able to describe an effect, and at least 70% described an effect that could be considered harmful.

Verbatim descriptions included:

Unrealistic ideas of “normal” society, particularly of undiscussed topics such as sex.

Normalisation of violence or lashing out as a way to deal with disagreement or problems.

They are growing up far too fast, being exposed to sex and violence before they should.

Some of the exposure can be beyond the capability of the child to process correctly.

Might influence them to commit those acts they see. They may think that those acts are the norm.

Steps taken to monitor exposure

Chart showing steps taken to monitor children's media use
Question: Which steps (if any) do you use in order to monitor/supervise the media a child in your care views or plays?

Respondents could select from a number of options and could also describe alternative ways to monitor/supervise children’s media use.

Results show that ratings or classifications are the most common way for people to monitor/supervise the media children view or play (the survey did not distinguish between different types of classifications, eg broadcast or cinema etc). When selecting from a list of options, 41% of the full sample (and 66% of those with dependent children) check the rating or classification when choosing a movie, TV show or game for a child or teen. Note that 44% of respondents were seldom or never responsible for caring for children or teens.

Views about media platforms

Chart showing views about the wide variety of media platforms available to children
Question: How do you feel about the wide range of media platforms available to children? [2]

Respondents could select from a number of options including “My feelings are not listed here, or I have something that I need to add”.

The majority (59%) of New Zealanders are worried that the wide range of media platforms available to children will make it easier to access things that they shouldn’t be exposed to. One in five feel overwhelmed, especially when trying to monitor media use. On the positive side, 42% think it’s great they have so many media options.

Let us know what you think

We'd love to hear what you think about this research. If you have any feedback you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, or contact us by phone on 0508 236 767, or by email at info@classificationoffice.govt.nz.

Footnotes

  1. Results are from the December 2016 UMR Online Omnibus survey. This is a nationally representative survey of 1000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over from UMR's SayIT panel (the margin for error for a 50% figure at the 95% confidence level being ± 3.1%). The survey was conducted from 1-15 December 2016. All numbers are shown rounded to zero decimal places. This means that the specified totals are not always exactly equal to the sum of the specified sub-totals.