Young people, our rangatahi and tamariki, can access virtually any content on their devices – and they’re watching more than ever. They play games, watch films and series on streaming services, and videos on platforms like YouTube and social media. It can be fun and educational, but there are downsides.
This section has simple tools and advice for parents and whānau to help their rangatahi and tamariki deal with challenging content and stay safe.
Messages and images in films, videos and games can help shape the way young people see the world. It can be hard for young tamariki to know what’s real and what’s not.
What rangatahi and tamariki see on their screens can sometimes be harmful. Some things can be frightening or trigger anxiety and distress.
Putting parental controls in place is a really good start – but children still need you to help them and they might see challenging things on friends’ devices.
You can’t control everything your rangatahi and tamariki see, but you can give them support and tools to deal with challenging media.
Pay attention to what your rangatahi and tamariki are watching, reading and playing and set boundaries together.
Be aware of age ratings and classifications – these give important information about how scary, violent or sexual content is.
Watch things your rangatahi and tamariki enjoy together and start conversations with them about what you see.
Let them know they can talk to you, and keep conversations calm and open.
If you need more information please feel free to contact our Information Unit.
It can be difficult and awkward to talk to your young people about media and teach them how to engage critically with the media they are consuming. With the help of Dr Claire Henry from the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University and Dr Sue Bagshaw from the Collaborative Trust, we have put together a number of videos to help you start those conversations.
For more information, hop on over to our Parents' Guide.
Teaching young people to think critically can seem like a daunting task, but it's important to get those conversations started. Here's why:
It may seem difficult to start that conversation with young people, but it doesn't have to be. Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us some tips on where to start:
Young people are going to be at different stages of development. Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us a quick overview on the differences between concrete and abstract thinkers:
How do our brains affect the way we develop? Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us the lowdown:
Why do young people sometimes feel like they're going through so many emotions? It may have something to do with their brain development:
Some of the conversations we want to have are pretty heavy. How do we start those? Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us an opening:
Don't forget to keep your emotions in check. It can lead to some pretty crossed wires:
It’s hard for parents to keep up with what their kids are watching on their phones and other devices, but there are plenty of tools available to help them out. We've put together a broad overview of parental control options that popular services offer over on our blog: Taking control.
Films, DVDs and (restricted) games must be labelled with NZ film labels before they can be supplied in New Zealand. The colour and symbol on the label and any content warning on it will help you decide if a film or game is suitable for your family.
Film labels are colour coded, much the same as traffic lights:
All labels have a rating or classification symbol and usually a descriptive note briefly explaining the nature of content in the film/game that may be of concern to viewers, for example, whether the film contains violence or sex.
You will find the labels or symbols displayed:
These are usually applied by the Film and Video Labelling Body. Anyone of any age can be supplied an unrestricted film, although some unrestricted films are made to appeal to older or adult audiences. There are 3 levels of unrestricted ratings:
Anyone can be shown or sold this. However, always consider whether the film is made for a family audience.
Anyone can be shown or sold this, but younger children may need some parental support when watching the film. Read the label for any content warnings and consider whether the film is made for a family audience.
Anyone can be shown or sold this but it is more suitable for mature viewers. Read the label for any content warnings and consider whether the film is made for a family audience.
The meaning of the M label
If you see a red label on a film or a game, it shows there is a legal restriction in place which limits who can be supplied with a game or a film. Red labels will often have a content warning which will list things in the film/game which some people may find disturbing.
Any restricted film or game will have been classified by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. The Office can classify according to age or purpose, or restrict a film's availability to a particular audience. The following restrictions are common:
If something has one of these labels it can only be supplied to people of and over the age shown on the label. A parent, shop or cinema is breaking the law if they supply an age-restricted item to someone who is not legally allowed to access it. You will see these labels on films, games, DVDs and a few music recordings, magazines and books.
What does R13 mean?
The RP(age) label means that the film or DVD can only be watched by someone under the age on the label if they are with a parent or guardian (an adult over 18). You will see these labels on films and DVDs. A parent, shop or cinema is breaking the law if they allow unaccompanied children to access these films.
What does RP mean?
Think of the red label as a warning flag. It means there is a legal restriction in place. If your child is under the age shown on the label (for example R13, R16) the law says they cannot be supplied that item. If the label is RP(age), then you can expect that there will be material in a film that your child may need support with, and the label means you should be watching the film with them.
Restrictions are placed on a film or game because there are levels of sex, horror, crime, cruelty, violence, self-harm or offensive language that children should not be exposed to. You can read the description on the label to find out more about the likely content of the film.
The restrictions on films and games apply in the home as well as school, sports clubs, shops and cinemas. A parent cannot give a child permission to watch or be shown a restricted film, or to buy or play a game, or watch a game being played, if the child is younger than the age on the label.
Many retail outlets and cinemas now ask for ID before young people can watch or buy age-restricted films and games. Many places will not accept a parent vouching for their child's age - they still require ID. Retailers should not sell an adult a restricted item, if they believe that adult will then give it to someone under the age shown on the label.
Watch our cinema ad:
No, a baby cannot be taken into an age-restricted film. The restriction applies no matter how young (or asleep) the baby is.
Cinemas have an agreement with the Film and Video Labelling Body (the organisation responsible for issuing unrestricted ratings) and the Motion Picture Distributors' Association to follow good practice guidelines for the screening of trailers with unrestricted feature films.
The guidelines say that cinema operators should try to make sure that each trailer matches the likely audience for the feature film. Cinema operators should consider the age of the likely audience, the impact on that audience, and the time of the screening. The guidelines also specifically state that trailers for restricted films should not be shown before a G or PG rated film.
If you have questions about a trailer screened before a children's film, please contact our Information Unit.
Members of the public can seek the leave of the Chief Censor to submit a film which has been rated by the Film and Video Labelling Body (most G, PG and M films) to the Classification Office.
Schools and other groups are not exempted from the classification system. It is an offence to show a restricted film to anyone underage - with or without parents' permission. It is possible for someone to apply for an exemption from the classification, so they can screen a restricted film to a younger audience, but this must be done in advance of the screening.
If you are concerned about an unrestricted film your child has seen at school or at another venue, you should talk to the organisation that screened it. If you believe an underage person has been shown a restricted film please contact the Censorship Compliance Unit at the Department of Internal Affairs.
If you can't find information on a film contact our Information Unit.
The Classification Office can classify books, graphic novels, magazines and music. If you see a red restricted label that looks the same as a film label on an item, it means it has been legally restricted to people above the age on the label.
Some distributors put their own R18 labels on items or warning labels on items. In some cases (such as adult magazines) the item would be restricted if it was seen by the Classification Office. In other cases (such as 'explicit lyrics' warnings on music) the distributor is just giving a general warning about content.
If you see a publication which you think should be restricted, or want to find out whether something has been seen by the Classification Office contact our Information Unit.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification does not regulate broadcasting. The first place to contact is the TV or radio station that showed or played the item concerned. If you are not happy with their answer, contact the Broadcasting Standards Authority. For information or complaints about advertising you should contact the Advertising Standards Authority.