The Film and Publication Board has noted the Health 24 article reporting a recent US study which claims that parents are more likely to let their kids see violent PG-13 rated films. The study, it is reported, has found that parents could let their children watch films with gun violence if that violence is not graphic and is justified, that is if for instance the hero uses it to protect vulnerable people against some villain. The article also cites a Professor Christopher Fergusson whose studies on the subject have found no correlation between media violence and children’s aggression.
Being a media regulatory body, the Film and Publication Board takes interest in such studies. Naturally, there have been contrasting views on this topic. The FPB tends to be persuaded by those studies that suggest a link between violence in the media and aggression among young children. Our inclination is not premised on a desire to justify our existence as a body mandated to protect children from premature exposure to unsuitable media content and child pornography (or child sexual exploitation off and online); but on the balance of evidence gleaned from various studies. This does not mean, however, that our assessment of the literature is not nuanced. For instance, while we may agree to some link between exposure to violent media content and aggression, we acknowledge the absence of a causal effect. In other words, we are aware that aggressive behaviour, or much of human behaviour, is a product of many factors, including the environment; and thus cannot be merely be a result of exposure to violent media content.
The FPB assigns age ratings to films and games, and also regulates some publications. In order to limit subjectivity in this task, our classifiers rely on our Classification Guidelines to come to a classification decision. These guidelines are themselves crafted from research, including empirical research and are benchmarked on best practice internationally. In addition we subject our ratings to a public test, through our Convergence Surveys. These surveys are carried out across the nation, covering the broad spectrum of the nation’s demographics, and test the levels of agreement between our ratings and the general public’s social norms and values.
So what do South Africa’s parents say about what their children see on television and other media? In our latest Convergence Survey of 2016, 58% of the 6, 480 parents surveyed said they placed restrictions on what their children can watch on television. Of the 2,610 participants whose children regularly go to cinemas, only 14% said they accompanied their children to the cinema to ensure that they do not watch age inappropriate films. 48% said they check the age restrictions before approving what their children could go and see. So, there is a general laxity in how parents enforce adherence to age restrictions among their children. This laxity is also evident when it comes to online behaviour of children. Only 33% of parents surveyed said they blocked certain websites from their home computers, with 17% saying they only allowed access to these under their (parent’s) supervision. When it comes to video games parents adopt a hands-off attitude, with 44% having no clue what games the children are playing and 38% either aware of what they play half or less than half the time. Only 18% said they watch what their children play most of the time. Only 6% forbade their children playing ‘shooting games’. So it would seem South African parents are not that different when it comes to the violent content in the media their young ones consume.
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Ms Manala Botolo
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