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"It's hard to know what you should and shouldn't watch" ...a youth perspective on entertainment media

Posted on 05 July 2016 by Sue (Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa, Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tūhoe)

I've been talking with young people around the country to find out how they're consuming entertainment media - and to get a feel for what they think of NZ's classification system and how it affects them.

Young people watching a movie
Sue Hoyle heads the Information Unit at the Office of Film & Literature Classification. She’s also editor of popular children’s title, Upstart Magazine, and a former editor of Tearaway Magazine. She previously worked with the Whanganui District Council to establish the first ever Whanganui Youth Council.

Youth voices: Ariana, 17

Ariana lives close to her whanau marae in Rotorua. She has two younger brothers and they all attend a decile three school. Ariana is into kapa haka, waka ama and basketball.

I talked to Ariana recently as part of our ongoing youth consultation project.

We're making decisions every day here at the Classification Office that mostly affect young people/rangatahi, so it makes sense that we hear what they have to say.

There's some disgusting shit in movies and video games. The thing is, a lot of kids stream movies on their computers now, so it's hard to know what you should and shouldn't watch. I remember when my friend and I watched Hostel [an R18 film]. We knew it was a horror but we weren't really prepared for it. Like, I totally freaked and it took me a long time to forget about it.

A lot of my friends act all hard ass though. Especially the boys. They talk about these movies they've watched and some of the gross shit but the more they talk about it, the less they seem to realise that what they're talking about is actually sick and disgusting.

Like, they just think that's normal or something. And then they sort of like, compete to see who can come up with the sickest's kind of dumb, you know.

Yeah, we do know – well, kind of.

I say 'kind of' because, like most New Zealanders, I think the impact of media violence and other disturbing material can have a negative impact on young people — however the type of impact it has is still being debated by researchers. In particular, the impact on young people of sexual violence in entertainment media has not been well documented — yet. The Classification Office is currently working on research in relation to this very topic. But more on that later.

For now, my chats with young people around the country are to find out how they are consuming entertainment media — and to get a feel for what they think of NZ's classification system and how it affects them.

This is only a small snapshot, and as I said, our work is ongoing. It not only helps extend our latest research (see changing media use and public perceptions of the classification system); it also helps to improve the competencies of the Office when we’re making classification decisions.

We hope that by sharing these conversations with the wider NZ public it may prompt more discussion on how our entertainment media is shaping the thoughts of our young people/rangatahi.

He waka eke noa — we are all in this together.

Youth voices: Cassie, 14

From Howick, Auckland. Attends a decile 10 private girls' school. Has one younger sister. Loves travel — her family just returned from a six-week European holiday. Interests include equestrian (her family leases a pony for her to ride on the weekends), fashion, photography. Plans to study architecture.

My mum is pretty strict when it comes to what we're allowed to watch on TV and at the movies. She always watches the movie trailers first and checks the ratings. How do I feel about it? It's ok...I guess. I mean, I know I'm not allowed to go to an R16 movie. That's the law, right?

The labels are pretty good, I think, because they warn you about what's going to be in the movies. I think that's a good thing. I wouldn't want my younger sister to see some of the stuff, or hear all the swearing. I think she would be shocked if she watched an R13 for example. She's only 11 and thinks swearing is really bad.

Sometimes it's hard to stop her seeing stuff on her computer though. We're allowed to watch some TV on demand, like Shorty Street. But Mum won't let us watch Lightbox or Netflix because she says she doesn't know what is suitable for us. She has to watch them first. Sometimes we nag her, like when we wanted to watch Orange Is The New Black. But she won't budge. We hear about it at school though.

Youth voices: Elijah, 16, and Karo, 13

From Waikanae, Wellington. Elijah (male) and Karo (female) are brother and sister. They attend a decile 5 public school. Both are into swimming and surf lifesaving. Elijah has an after school job at the local supermarket, and is the sound system guy for his friends' band. Karo is into music, Stage Challenge, and Nano Girl.


I just turned 16 so I was allowed to go and see Nice Guys the other week. It's an R16 so it was my first R16 movie. I thought it was ok. I went with my mates. But one of my mates is only 15 so he couldn't come. He was bummed out. But it's a bit like having to wait until you're old enough to sit your licence...that's just the way it is.

But we can pretty much watch anything we like on the internet now. So it gets kind of confusing. There are so many different videos on YouTube...some of them are a crack up. But then you kind of get tired of watching's almost like there is too much. I think I probably get bored quite easily.

What would be a good classification system to have in the future? I think the labels are pretty good. We know that the red labels are the important ones. And we know that unless we're the right age, we shouldn't be watching or playing that one.

No, I don't think we should be allowed to just choose to watch what we like...there are some kids that wouldn't be able to handle some stuff. It might make them upset or angry.

I just think it would be helpful if maybe everything had the same labels. Like, then we would know straight away. Or at least, our parents would know. They're the ones who are always telling us what we can and can't watch. That's always the first thing my mum asks, "What's the rating?".

I've often watched stuff I'm not allowed to (without my parents knowing) on my computer or at a friend's place...but the thing is, sometimes I wish I hadn't.

What about music lyrics? Does music get classified, like albums etc? Some music lyrics are pretty off-the-wall aye.


I'm allowed to see R13 movies now. Yeah, our parents are pretty strict about what we're allowed to watch. But that doesn't bother me. I don't really want to see mushy sex scenes anyway. Or really violent stuff.

The last movie I saw was Hunt For The Wilderpeople. It was pretty cool. Oh, and I saw Alice Through The Looking Glass, but it was a bit stink. I want to go and see The Conjuring 2 but Mum probably won't let me. I think it's an R13.

My friends and I often have sleepovers and we watch movies all night. We have Netflix but we have to ask Mum or Dad before we watch anything. We're not allowed to just watch anything. We don't really get DVDs any more. We just use Netflix.

Tell us what you think

Let's start talking. If you don't wish to comment publicly, contact me in private here:

For more information about the classification system, contact our Information Unit.

Ariana, Cassie, Elijah, Karo and Cody have all granted us permission to publicise their comments, and their first names, ages, towns, and interests.

Sue manages the Information Unit at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. The Information Unit provides information to other staff, to the public, and to industry members - they are not involved in assigning classifications. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.


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