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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."

Ends

Notes to Editors

1.   There were 1,867 responses to the online survey which was carried out between 16 January and 23 January 2012. Those taking part were all parents or carers for one or more child aged under 18. Most of the respondents to the survey came from the Mumsnet and Netmums websites – the UK’s two largest online parenting communities. There were 1,686 respondents with children who watched films at home and 1,314 with children who played video games.

2.   The ParentPort website was created in response to Reg Bailey’s Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, which recommended that regulators should work together to create a single website to act as an interface between themselves and parents.

3.   ParentPort provides straightforward information on what parents can do if they feel they have seen or heard something inappropriate for their children. The site makes the process of making a complaint easier by directing parents to the right media regulator for their specific area of concern.

4.   ParentPortwas developed in collaboration with seven UK media regulators. These are 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).

Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It applies the Advertising Codes in the public interest and with the co-operation of advertisers, agencies and media owners to ensure that advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. The ASA acts independently of both the Government and the advertising industry.

Authority for Television On Demand

The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) regulates editorial content (programmes) on over 140 video on demand services available online, via set top boxes, on mobile phones, or via internet connected TVs. For further information, please visit www.atvod.co.uk

BBC Trust

The BBC Trust is the governing body of the BBC. It represents the interests of licence fee payers. Its Trustees are responsible for setting the high-level strategy for the BBC so that it delivers the six public purposes set out in the BBC’s Charter, as well as for defending the Corporation's independence from political or commercial interests. It is responsible for holding the BBC to account for value for money. It also sets the ultimate standards for programme making in the organisation and ensures the corporation lives up to them, both through oversight of the BBC's editorial guidelines and by deciding complaints on appeal.

British Board of Film Classification

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is an independent, private, not for profit company which classifies films, videos, DVDs and certain video games, advertisements and trailers. The BBFC operates transparent, well-understood and trusted co-regulatory and self regulatory classification regimes based on years of expertise and published Guidelines which reflect public opinion and the risk of harm; and is accountable to Parliament. www.bbfc.co.uk

Ofcom

Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. For further information about Ofcom please visit: www.ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom’s news releases can be found at: www.ofcom.org.uk/media/.

Press Complaints Commission

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is an independent body which administers the system of self-regulation for the press. It does so primarily by dealing with complaints, framed within the terms of the Editors' Code of Practice, about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines (and their websites, including editorial audio-visual material) and the conduct of journalists. It can also assist individuals by representing their interests to editors in advance of an article about them being published.