Ahh my first M rated movie… Mel Gibson in bright red nail polish, waxing his legs, and jumping into a pair of women’s pantyhose. An unforgettable scene for many reasons, but mostly because I felt a new sense of rebellion. No, a new sense of independence, me, a nine year-old watching a movie clearly unsuitable for general audiences and without parental guidance. Where was the regulation folks?
Regulating audiences and what makes this spatial
The introduction of the television into the private space, like any new form of media use, brought about a mass of social anxiety often concerning the invasion of the home by the ‘mass media’, the influence of violent content on children’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviours, and the medium’s immersive space and addictive power (ACCM, 2014).
Movies travelled faster and further and exposed audiences to values and ideals well beyond the family home creating dire conclusions about media and its effects – a whole other issue altogether, but is why we have ‘rules’ regarding what you can and cannot watch on TV.
Remember this ad? You 90s kids should.
This one’s my favourite, the dad really rocked that crop top.
So on what grounds were these classifications set? In recognising the subjective nature of classification, the 1998 Community Assessment Panel Report – under the Office of Film and Literature Classification – noted the following:
The Third Person Effect
- Panellists often expected a mature understanding from their own children and assumed a potentially detrimental effect on children ‘out there’ who were felt to be more vulnerable.
- However, there were positive remarks about the perception of young people and their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Young Audience Appeal
- The argument that classifications don’t need to be so stringent for films with limited appeal to children.
- In contrast it was believed that particular diligence was needed with themes relevant to young people, as such material was most likely to have an impact.
The ‘Copy-Cat’ Effect
- Certain material was objected not because of a Panellists’ personal standards but on a fear that impressionable young people would be prone to imitate undesirable behaviour.
As seen, such grounds were based on the much debated link between real life behaviour and that witnessed on screen (Young, 1998) and are very much a reflection of the social anxieties mentioned above. But have they been right?
Ten years on and the general population seems to think so.
It seems then that regulating the private home was not so much an issue. Although the environment became increasingly difficult for the government to regulate, parental mediation was becoming more valued (Livingstone & Helsper, 2008).
With limited platforms available, it wasn’t so hard for a parent to keep an eye on their kids media activity. And as my dad liked to do, if you didn’t want your kid watching it, unplug it.
Even in the public space, and up until this day, regulation is made easier though the enforcement of authority – like being denied access to Facebook on your school’s internet server, or when your local pub only allows one hour of free Wi-Fi.
But with multiple platforms emerging into the public and private space- alongside the multiple skill levels of the kids growing up with them- regulation is not so easy, particularly with the online world creating a space of its own.
The Australian Council on Children and the Media (2014) stressed the importance of boundaries and good parenting in relation to online media and suggest the following:
“Even if children appear to have remarkable facility with the technology, the parent is still best places to assess the content; and parents and carers have a responsibility to familiarise themselves sufficiently with the technology to be able to make those judgements.”
Now, my four-year-old cousin was handed an iPhone before she could even talk. Ask her to play Nicki Minaj’s Startships, not only is she playing it, she’s searching for it, downloading it, and re-playing it all before you’ve even unlocked your phone.
But I question the amount of media her parents regulate. Do they know when she’s purchased Smurf Berries with real money? Do they know it’s been three hours since she’s turned on the TV? And do they realise Nicki Minaj isn’t the best artist for a four-year-old?
I’m not saying they’re bad parents, in fact I’m sure they are aware of their child’s media use and are perfectly okay with it. But then you’ve got parents questioning how young is too young?
I wasn’t allowed a phone until I was 16, didn’t get broadband until year 10, and still get in trouble for casual internet browsing based on the premise that a waste of data is a waste of money – the cost and time of media: take that for social anxiety.
Either way, both are examples of regulated media in the private and online space – whether through enforcement or thereby lack of – and thus is why such surrounding anxieties are a debate.
Department of Communications, (2014). Enhancing Online Safety for Children inquiry. South Australia: AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL ON CHILDREN AND THE MEDIA.
Livingstone, Sonia and Helsper, Ellen (2008) Parental mediation and children’s Internet use. Journal of broadcasting & electronic media, 52 (4). pp. 581-599. ISSN 0883-8151
Office of Film and Literature Classification, (2014). COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT PANELS. Australian Government.