Last week the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) published a report on research that we conducted in 2022. The research explored the British public's attitudes and understandings towards age ratings and content warnings on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ etc. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, we spoke to parents, caregivers and teens about their knowledge of streaming platforms' classification systems. Contrary to popular belief, streaming platforms are not legally obliged to use BBFC age ratings and content warnings on their platform (although many sites, such as Netflix, use BBFC regardless). As a result, the classification system for streaming platforms can be a minefield for potential viewers, where cinema-rated 18s can be downgraded to 15s once on a platform and unfamiliar ratings, such as 14+, can cause confusion.

Our research found that the vast majority of parents and caregivers (90%) consider age ratings and content advice on streaming platforms to be as important as they are for films in the cinema. While it might be a given that parents and caregivers care about content classification, we also found that over half of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 check content advice before deciding what to watch. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 say they pay more attention to content advice when choosing for someone younger than themselves, such as siblings or other family members.

Many parents and caregivers also have concerns about the potential for streaming services to use different criteria for determining age ratings and content advice, with 61% expressing concern. The top worry among respondents was the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content and a decrease in trust in age ratings in general. Furthermore, 64% of the sample expressed worry about the potential impact of children's exposure to inappropriate content. Additionally, UK families believe that transparency, independence from platforms, staying current with public sentiment, and reflecting cultural values are crucial characteristics for those responsible for setting age ratings and content advice. As such, the research points to a desire for consistency between VoD platforms when it comes to age ratings and content advice. The report itself goes into much more detail and highlights areas of concern, as well as identifies gaps in the public's awareness of classification systems. To learn more, read the full report here.