There are already several institutions that oversee disposition of online content. It is good to be able to distinguish the quality and credibility of information and to know how to deal with threatening material.
Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is a movie, series, book, app and other content rating company which recommends the appropriate age for that content. It also offers users the opportunity to evaluate.
Kids-In-Mind describes what children will see in a film, but does not recommend which age group it is suitable for.
IMDb Movie Database provides useful information. In the movie details, search for Parents Guide and click the View content advisory link. You will be taken to the detailed information page. You can also find age recommendations based on country-specific rules.
There are also several ways that you can work out whether a piece of content is suitable for your child. Many platforms use a type of rating to advise on the level of violence and explicit content that a piece of media contains.
Here are just some things you can watch out to help you make an informed choice on whether an app, website or piece of content is suitable:
Online music videos ratings
The ratings appear on the two biggest video sharing platforms VEVO and YouTube. On YouTube, you’ll see the ‘Partner Rating’ label on the video below the video which will show whether the video is suitable for age from12, 15, or 18 (PG 12, 15 or 18). On VEVO you’ll see the rating symbol on the top left-hand corner of the video player when the video loads. You can also click on the ‘i’ for more information about the rating.
Online gaming PEGI ratings
Pan European Game Information or PEGI are used to advise on which video games are suitable for older or younger teens or adults only due to the type of content they have. PEGI ratings were introduced in 2003 and range from PEGI! (Parental Guidance Recommended), PEGI 3, PEGI 7, PEGI 12, PEGI 16 and PEGI 18. The number relates to the age that the game is appropriate for. So, if a game has a PEGI 7 rating, it is suitable for children 7 and over. These ratings are legally enforceable so it is illegal to sell a PEGI 18 game to a child. Also, these ratings do not relate to the level of difficulty of the game, just to the level of appropriate content.
On platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime, you’ll see age ratings displayed across the content they have on offer. These may differ from platforms but the rating will always advise if something is for a ‘mature’ audience or specify if the content ‘contains strong language’.
Social media platforms minimum age of use
Most social media platform’s terms and conditions advise that children should be 13 and over to use the platforms. The reason for this minimum age is not to do with the fact that the content on the platform is only suitable for 13 and over but due to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Act) which is a US law passed to protect the privacy of under 13s.
Understanding App age ratings
Both the Google Play Store and Apple app store use app ratings to highlight the level of sexual content, swearing, mature themes and substance abuse an app may contain.
Accessibility abbreviations you may encounter on the Internet (source: Motion picture Association rating):
- G: Children’s film, completely safe
- PG: Parents should consider letting children watch
- PG-13: Children under 13 years with parents only
- R: Under 17 years only with an escort
- NC-17: not suitable for younger of 18 years
Parental Controls, Privacy Settings and various ratings are useful tools to help minimise the risks your children may face, but they are not 100% effective. It’s really important to teach your child skills like critical thinking and resilience, so they know what do if they encounter risk. Always encourage them to talk to you about anything they find upsetting online.
As soon as your child starts to use the internet you should begin to talk about what they might find there. Help them understand that sometimes they may come across things that they’d prefer not to see, or that you would prefer they didn’t see. Try to have these conversations regularly.
- The recommended measures how to avoid the inappropropriate content:
- Explain age limits and age-inappropriate sites
- Talk to other parents and the school
- Agree ground rules
- Be calm and reassuring
- Age verification on commercial porn sites
- Encourage critical thinking
- Talk about what is fake and what is real
- Talk about positive ways how to use tech
It’s important to keep the conversation going and take an interest in what your child is doing online.