REPORT: How parents control children’s access to adult media

Revealed: How parents control children’s access to adult media

A new online survey conducted by the website ParentPort reveals that, of those parents surveyed whose children watch films at home, 40% had allowed their children to watch a film classified above their age.

The survey of 1,800 respondents from the UK’s two largest online parenting communities –Mumsnet and Netmums – reveals the challenges and pressures parents face when it comes to keeping the media their children see age-appropriate.

Of those parents surveyed whose children play video games, a quarter (25%) had allowed their children to play games classified above their age.

Furthermore, 16% of parents surveyed said they had bought their children a device or gadget – such as a games console or MP3 player – which they themselves did not fully understand how to use.

However, the parents surveyed did not just give into their children’s appetite for the media – many also closely supervise what their children see and use. In fact, 82% of the parents surveyed claimed they always know what films and television programmes their children watch, and 77% said they always or usually know what websites their children visit.

Meanwhile, the survey also uncovers parents’ boundaries when it comes to media, with one in eight of the parents surveyed reporting concern that Christmas presents their child had received were inappropriate for their age. Some reported being worried their youngsters would have unsupervised access to the internet through smartphones and laptops given as gifts. Others cited well-meaning friends and family overstepping the mark – with examples of pre-teens unwrapping presents of 18-rated video games, and under-tens receiving 12-rated DVDs.

Overall, the parents surveyed recognised the contribution the media makes to their children’s lives. Over half (52%) of the parents surveyed thought films and DVDs generally played a positive role in their children’s lives. Forty-nine per cent cited television as also having a positive effect, and 48% believed the internet also made a good contribution to their children’s lives.

ParentPort website

ParentPort was set up last October to make it easier for parents to complain about material they see or hear across the media, communications and retail industries.

It was jointly developed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), the BBC Trust, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and the Video Standards Council (VSC)/Pan-European Game Information (PEGI).

Of those parents completing the survey who knew about ParentPort, 94.7% rated the website as a ‘very useful’ or ‘quite useful’ tool for them as a parent, guardian or carer; while 93.9% said they would recommend ParentPort to others.

Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive said: “This survey reveals the challenges facing parents when it comes to their children’s use of the media. ParentPort now gives parents an easy way to register their concerns with the media regulators who work to protect children from inappropriate material”.

Guy Parker, ASA Chief Executive said: “Parents, carers and guardians play an important role as the first line of defence in deciding what’s appropriate for their children to see. But quite rightly, they expect support from media regulators, which is why ParentPort is such a valuable resource to help us understand parents’ views. We encourage parents to take full advantage of it.”

Martha Lane Fox, UK Digital Champion, said: “The world of media is speeding up and changing shape and anything that helps people navigate the new landscape is to be welcomed.”

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