Is your child under or over 15 years? Or under or over 18 years?
These are the ages around which the National Classification Scheme for films and games in Australia, presently revolves.
And it’s time that changed. Parents of children under 15 years need far more useful information- age-based advice that could really support their choices of appropriate media, eg for children aged 4-5, or 9-10.
The present system is based on concepts of community standards and offence, not child development.
There is a reliable body of research that identifies the types of content that can disturb, scare, or in other ways cause harm to children, at different stages of their lives. That’s what parents and carers want and need to know.
Other countries have such age-based systems and classification processes based on child development. The Netherlands has had its Kijkwijzer system for many years . It’s scientifically- based, evaluated frequently and well received by parents.
The reasons are that these ages represent, on average, significant changes in children's development and stages of life. At age 5 they start school; at 9 are exercising critical thinking signalled by the shift from early to middle childhood; at 12 start secondary school and enter puberty, at 16, can leave school, but not yet an adult.
The problem with the M category is that it has no legal force, which means that very young children can and do attend such films, risking potential harm from violent, scary and otherwise disturbing themes and content. Setting legal force at a lower age could help here. And perhaps might discourage marketers from aiming their M classified titles, and linked products like toys and games, at the young.
ACCM recommends that a new 12+ category should have legal force.
Who can change the classification system? The Federal and State Ministers responsible for censorship (the Federal Minister for Communications, and State AGs mostly) together decide on the National Classification Scheme.