According to a study conducted for the Film and Publication Board (FPB), South African children aged 10 to 17 years old have repeated exposure to violence and bad language since a very young age. Named “The Impact of Media Content on Children in South Africa”, the main aim of the study was to determine the impact of media content on children to ensure that the classification guidelines, and in particular, the age restrictions, are aligned with the development stages of South African children.
Part of the research towards this involved a survey of child participants from Pretoria and Polokwane. The sample groups from each area completed a short one-page, self-administrated questionnaire including questions related to the exposure and impact of classifiable content in movies and games.
All participants (from both Polokwane and Pretoria) had exposure to different classifiable elements in movies since a very young age. These elements are:
- Bad language
- Sexual activity
- Substance abuse
What emerged from the results is not so much that there are vast differences between the exposure of children and parents in Pretoria vs. children and parents in Polokwane, but that the impact of media content is largely differentiated across age groups. In comparison to the younger children (10 to 13 years) a notable increase is noted for all classifiable elements among the age group 14-15 years.
- Movie content has a profound impact on children aged 10 to 17 – in Pretoria, this impact was reported more on a community level whereas in Polokwane the participants indicated a larger impact on their individual lives.
- The classifiable elements that affect children the most are nudity, violence and sexual content.
- Age restrictions and classification guidelines are more strictly enforced within the cinema environment in comparison to the home environment.
- Parents in both places confirmed that their children have been exposed to age inappropriate media, although some remain are unsure about the level of their children’s exposure.
- Children are exposed to elements such as bad language, horror and violence from an early age, and thus become desensitised towards them.
It seems that when it comes to age restrictions and media exposure, it’s not so much about place, but about parenting, as parents do have some level of control over what their children do and do not see on their screens.