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Attitudes towards classification labels - 2015

01 December 2015

It's important for the Classification Office to keep up to date with how New Zealanders think about and use the classification system. This is why we asked UMR Research to include some questions from us in their October 2015 Online Omnibus survey. A representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders 18 years of age and over participated in the survey.

Restricted classification labels on DVDs

Our questions

We asked how people are guided by restricted classifications

Participants were shown our classification labels and then asked about how they deal with age restricted content warnings when deciding to show or give a film or game to a person under the age shown on the label. Depending on how they answered, some participants were asked a further question about the reasons why they would disregard the classifications some of the time or most of the time.

We also asked if people would like to see these classification labels on TV

Participants were asked if they would find it useful to see these labels on television shows as well as movies. The Government is currently undertaking a review of content classification in New Zealand, with one potential outcome being that all content could use the same set of content warnings or classifications in the future, regardless of format or medium.

The results

  • 81% of New Zealanders would always, or almost always, be guided by classification labels when making viewing and gaming choices for young people
  • 68% of New Zealanders would find it useful to have these same classifications on television content

Attitudes towards classification labels

The survey found that 81% of New Zealanders are guided by age restrictions most or all of the time.

Chart showing how often people are guided by classification labels
Question: Which of the following best expresses how you deal with an age restriction and content warning label, like the ones we've just shown you, when deciding to show or give a film or game to a person under the age specified on the label?

Over a third of New Zealanders are always guided by age restrictions

Attitudes towards classification labels have been consistent since the last survey in February 2013. 37% (up 3%) said they would always be guided by the classifications and 5% (unchanged) said they would never be guided by the classifications. Men and people under 30 were somewhat less likely to say they would be guided by the classifications.

About half are guided by age restrictions most of the time

44% said they would be guided by the classifications except in some circumstances. Those circumstances included when they knew the content already and when they judged young people to be mature enough to watch something.

Some New Zealanders are only sometimes guided by age restrictions

14% said they wouldn't take any notice of the classification, except in some circumstances. When asked about those circumstances some said they would make a judgement call based on the maturity of the viewers while others said they would take notice of the classification if they were concerned about the level of violence.

Classification labels on television shows

Chart showing support for classification labels on TV shows

A majority of New Zealanders think classifications on TV shows would be useful

68% of respondents said they would find it useful to see classifications like R16 and R18 on television shows, 8% said they were unsure and 24% said they would not find them useful. Women, people with dependent children and pacific islanders were all more likely to say they would find the classifications useful while men and under 30s said they would be less likely to find them useful.

Most people who thought the classifications would be useful indicated that they would be good as a guide for children and/or themselves. There were some mentions of classifications being useful to know what to expect from a TV show and that it is currently sometimes hard to tell what will be in a show.

Reasons classification labels on television would be useful

Most people who said they'd find the labels useful thought they would be a useful guide for making viewing choices for children.

Don't always get to see TV content before kids see it and can be difficult to judge appropriateness

[Would use labels] To ensure children in the house did not get to watch unsuitable programs accidentally

It is harder to regulate TV watching by children. Age appropriate labelling is useful when explaining this to young people

People also mentioned that classification labels would be useful in making informed choices about the television shows they chose to watch, and would give them an idea of the sort of content to expect in a show.

It would save me having to IMDB shows all the time

It guides me as to suitability of content for the audience

Greater understanding or knowledge of what you will watch

Programmes today are so difficult to judge content until after viewing, especially with cartoons

Some people did not think classifications on TV were relevant to them

31% of respondents who said classifications on TV would not be useful felt they could not relate as they either had no children or they did not watch much TV. Frequently cited reasons for thinking the classifications would not be useful included 'I can make my own judgements' and 'they would not effectively change anything'.

Public support

These findings show public support for age restrictions and content warnings regardless of format.

The results reflect a strong demand for the presence of guidance and information in the form of classification labels and content warnings in a time of significant change in media consumption patterns. People rely on age restricted classifications at the cinema, on DVD or Blu-ray, and on newer online content delivery platforms.

The results also show that application of these same age restrictions and content warnings on TV is popular with the New Zealand public, reflecting a desire for a consistent set of classifications to be used regardless of technology or format.

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