Children's access to inappropriate content in the spotlight

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pretoria - There is great responsibility on parents and adults to be accountable for the content children in their care have access to, says Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

She was speaking at the Film and Publications Board's National Consultative Forum on Guidelines in Boksburg on Thursday, where consultations on the draft Classification Guidelines were taking place.

"These classification guidelines will, once finalised, assist the Film and Publications Board (FPB) to enhance its work and to guarantee the safety of children from premature exposure to adult content and experiences," Dlamini Zuma said.

However, she cautioned against expectations that guidelines would automatically ensure that children were safe from inappropriate content and called on parents to play their role.

"This becomes increasingly important in a borderless world where content can be access through mobile phones on the internet as well as social networking sites.

"Technology, while making life so much easier and communication between people in all parts world seamless and indeed cost effective, can be a double-edged sword in respect of the emotional and physical safety and well-being of our children," she said.

Dlamini Zuma also highlighted the need to deliberate over the nature of content disseminated over public airwaves.

"South Africa is a democratic society that encourages freedom of choice, in all respects. Perhaps citizens who choose to access content that is deemed unsuitable for younger audiences or those with particular sensitivities could purchase it for their consumption rather than consuming it through public channels," she added.

Public concern over children's exposure to violence and sex in the media was not new but was of particular importance in this day and age because young people were exposed to even more graphic and explicit forms of media violence and sex, the minister noted.

It was important to robustly deliberate on the classification guidelines since they would be used to determine the ratings and classifiable elements that ought to be identified when classifying content for young people in particular and society in general, she said.

"The FPB, in seeking to reflect objectivity in its classification guidelines and consideration of the changes in South African society, has taken into account the prevalent norms and values of its citizens and developments in South African legislation. In the formulation of the new ratings and classifications, we have also taken cognisance of citizen research," she said.

The Classification Guidelines represented a progressive shift from the way in which content had been classified in the past.

"New elements that have been identified and proposed in the draft guidelines also respond to new international trends regarding classification," she said

New methods of distribution and developments in the film and gaming industry have been recognised and incorporated into the Classification Guidelines.