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Information for parents and whānau

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.

There are simple things you can do:

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.

How to start a conversation:

Talking with rangatahi and tamariki about what they see is a great way to help them think critically about what they are viewing.

Here are some ways to start the conversation:

  • Ask what they think about something you’ve both watched.
  • Ask who their favourite and least favourite characters are and why.
  • Ask their opinion on whether the movie or show was realistic.
  • Ask if they think the show reinforced stereotypes, why/why not.
  • If violence was shown, ask are there better ways of handling conflict?

Here are some questions parents often ask us:

Talking with rangatahi and tamariki

How do I start a conversation about the media with my child?

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.

Thinking critically

Teaching young people to think critically can seem like a daunting task, but it's important to get those conversations started. Here's why:

Getting started is easy

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:

Concrete vs Abstract thinkers

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:

A handy guide to brain development

How do our brains affect the way we develop? Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us the lowdown:

Flipping your lid

Why do young people sometimes feel like they're going through so many emotions? It may have something to do with their brain development:

Suicide

Some of the conversations we want to have are pretty heavy. How do we start those? Dr Sue Bagshaw gives us an opening:

Checking your emotions

Don't forget to keep your emotions in check. It can lead to some pretty crossed wires:

For more information, hop on over to our Parents Guide.

I'm a parent and I'm concerned about what my children can access. What can I do?

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.

Age ratings and what can be shown

Can my children watch or play an age-restricted (red labelled) film or game?

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.

Red means Restricted

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 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.

Are there any exceptions for age-restrictions? Can I take a baby to a restricted film?

No, a baby cannot be taken into an age-restricted film. The restriction applies no matter how young (or asleep) the baby is.

What trailers can be shown at children's movies?

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.

I am unhappy with the rating (G, PG or M) on a film. What can I do?

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.

What films can be shown to children at school (or at other community groups)?

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.

Who’s responsible and where to find more information

Where can I find out detailed information about the content of films?

The Internet Movie Database has plot summaries and detailed content information on films and videos. Common Sense Media also provides reviews for films, television shows and video games.

If you can't find information on a film contact our Information Unit.

Who regulates music, books and magazines/comics?

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.

Who can I contact about TV or radio or advertising complaints?

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.

Other useful links for parents

Film

Games

Media Issues

Internet Safety