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Youth and Sexually Violent Media

12 April 2017

Press Release

Youth Experts Say More Support Needed for Young People to Deal with Sexually Violent Media

Sexual violence in entertainment media, such as movies, TV shows and video games, may influence young people’s beliefs about sex, relationships and sexual violence – potentially affecting their attitudes and behaviours.

These are among the concerns voiced in a nationwide research and consultation project, Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence, by representatives of 20 different organisations from around New Zealand who work closely with young people, including NGOs, government officials, academics and others.

The findings, released today, are from stage two of a three-stage project conducted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Today’s report explores the way that adults who work closely with young people perceive the effects of sexual violence in entertainment media on this key demographic.

Participants felt there is a lack of positive messaging aimed at youth that challenges harmful beliefs such as sexual violence being based solely on sexual desire and frustration, sexual violence being a pathway to intimacy and rape being perpetrated mainly by strangers.

Because young minds are still developing, the adults thought that young people are more likely to accept media uncritically, and use it as an educative tool.

Participants suggested several actionable solutions that may reduce the effects of poor media portrayals of sex, relationships, and sexual violence:

• Comprehensive education teaching teenagers about consent, coercion, violence, and qualities of un/healthy relationships – including environments that allow teenagers to communicate with each other, and with trusted adults, about their own experiences.

• Online streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Lightbox etc) need better classification and labelling. Although the adult participants were sceptical about the extent to which young people complied with classification guidelines, they felt strongly that the content notices that accompanied ratings supported decision making by young people. Many participants said that these notices should be more detailed.

Chief Censor Dr Andrew Jack says one of the key lessons is the need to support our young people, particularly teenagers, to become savvy consumers of media.

“Emerging from this phase of research is a vision of a generation who are able to recognise the one-dimensional depictions of sexual violence that are increasingly common across all forms of entertainment media and who have the confidence to call them out.

“The insights offered by adults who work closely with young people are useful in that they indicate discomfort with how the media portrays sex and sexual violence, and the potentially harmful beliefs that these portrayals continue to feed.

Click here for the full Stage 2 report Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence .


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