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Surviving and thriving in the digital age: Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Internal Affairs

07 December 2017

Our Briefing to the Incoming Minister, the Honourable Tracey Martin, presents the key classification and online media challenges facing New Zealanders in this digital age, and our plans to address these through a radically revised approach. The Briefing outlines a plan that is rational, evidence-led and informed by New Zealanders. 

Download the full Briefing to the Incoming Minister (PDF 1.80MB)

Some important takeaways from the Briefing are below - including an outline of our plan for dealing with the challenges of media content online. Download the full Briefing for details. 

The traditional approaches are not working

We know this from our own research, from global research, and most importantly from talking directly to parents and teenagers nationwide. Young people are being impacted by what they see – and parents are desperate for guidance.

She's being exposed to a world I don't really want for her. But you're stuck, if I say no she'll be isolated from her friends and that's uncool.

Parent (of a teen) - OFLC consultation

The OFLC is a trusted centre of expertise for New Zealanders. We provide recognised classifications, reliable warnings, and valued guidance to the public every day. Preserving New Zealanders’ rights to freedom of expression is integral to our decision-making. We also work with enforcement agencies on the ‘darker side’ to help reduce the impact of publications that promote such things as child exploitation, terrorism, and sexual violence. And we provide leading edge research that is recognised globally.

That’s why we know an important opportunity exists to make a real difference to the lives of parents and young people in New Zealand.

The time is now to make the changes that are needed.

David appearing on the AM Show with Duncan Garner
Chief Censor David Shanks on the AM Show.

Building relationships to develop solutions

We know that most New Zealanders (83 percent) would like to see a single classification system applied across all platforms. However, progress on this model – and other changes – have been hampered for over 10 years by disagreement between regulators and industry. The needs of New Zealanders and their families have taken a back seat. The OFLC advocates a different approach. We have reached out to industry, listened to their challenges, and found common ground.

We have taken a cooperative approach with online streaming services, such as Netflix, which has resulted in improved service and information that New Zealanders can rely on.

We have done this while awaiting regulatory reform to cover this area. Regulation will always lag behind new technologies in the media space. But this new model will build on shared goals and trust-based relationships.

People standing around a table with their fists together

We are listening - engagement is key

Our engagement with the community is essential for doing our job today and designing a responsive service for tomorrow. The release of our research report, Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence generated high media interest.

My mum was watching Game of Thrones and I asked her what it was. She wouldn't tell me so I just sat there. She didn't tell me to get out. She let me sit there and watch, It disturbed me so I walked out and started playing my games. I didn't talk to my mum all week.

Older teen male participating in OFLC research

Our research:

  • adds to a growing international consensus on research demonstrating harmful effects, particularly on young people. New trends and technologies will increase these impacts.
  • has given us rich insight into how to make real connections with our rangatahi and tamariki – and the best ways to help them.
  • and the discussions we have every day with real New Zealanders informs everything we do. Our plan now is to deepen that engagement. We are listening.

We already know that New Zealanders are concerned because we hear from them every day. Our recent survey of 1,000 people revealed that more than 84 percent of parents have concerns about the effects of media on children and young people.

A group of women talking together

Looking ahead - the plan

It makes sense to have a strategy to allow New Zealanders as much freedom as they want – while equipping them to deal with the risks. Our plan is rational, evidence-led, and informed by New Zealanders. They have told us what they need to look after themselves and their whānau.

We need to:

  • Give parents simple tools to confidently manage their children’s access and use of media and games.
  • Educate children and young people to be savvy and resilient consumers in a digital world.
  • Equip New Zealanders to consume media in an active and critical way.
  • Use an increasingly tech-savvy approach to minimise cost, increase speed and keep pace with digital volumes.
  • Broaden and deepen engagement.

Our strategy is aimed at making the biggest difference for New Zealanders at minimal cost to government and industry, with low regulatory overheads. Find out more in the full Briefing to the Incoming Minister (PDF, 1.80MB).

A person looking into the light at the end of the tunnel