Published: 9th February 2023

New BBFC survey reveals UK families’ most awkward viewing moments

  • Sex scenes rank the highest for parents, while kissing comes out top for children.
  • Parents across the country are cracking jokes as children sit in uncomfortable silence.
  • Comedian Henning Wehn discusses poll results and new BBFC ratings’ feature in an exclusive podcast takeover episode. 
  • Visit the website or download the free BBFC app to help avoid the awkward moments.

London, February 9 2023: New BBFC research, by YouGov, surveyed 1,500 parents/caregivers and young people aged 12-19 to unveil the nation’s most awkward viewing moments - for example, viewing a sex scene in front of your parents or teenagers. The poll asked respondents about what causes us to feel awkward in the moments, how we react, what are the worst instances that spring to mind, and how we behave in those situations that we all dread. The results highlight some of the most common-yet-hilariously uncomfortable interactions experienced by many families across the country.

According to the survey, one fifth of UK parents and young people are sitting down and watching films together with other family members of different ages at least once a week. When asked to rank the on-screen moments that causes people to feel awkward or embarrassed, nearly three quarters (66%) of parents said sex scenes, followed by nudity and sexual references. Meanwhile, over half of young people (54%) felt that kissing scenes during films were the most awkward, followed by sex scenes and nudity. 

The research, by YouGov, also examined consumer behaviours that unfold during these moments. It’s clear that such moments are particularly uncomfortable for younger adults, with nearly half (45%) of the nation’s young people revealing that they sit in silence, or reach for their phone. On the other hand, parents are more likely to strike up a conversation about something else (26%), with some even leaving the room to make a cup of tea (4%), illustrating a relatable generational divide in behaviour. Unsurprisingly, making a joke appears to be a popular antidote amongst both UK parents and young people to try and combat any cringeworthy viewing experiences.

Do any of these awkward viewing moments sound familiar? If so, the BBFC are encouraging UK families to visit the website or download the free app from the App Store or Google Play to help avoid the awkward moments. 

This news comes as the BBFC has today unveiled an enhanced ratings feature on both their website and app. The need for this has been driven by an increased demand for content advice amongst UK consumers, with the YouGov data showing that over 80% of parents and nearly 70% of children said it would be helpful to know more about what a film contains to avoid any potential awkwardness. 

The new visual display will appear on every new release that is submitted for cinema, alongside all of the major 2023 releases that have already been classified to help families choose content well. Additionally, the new feature will be applied to a backlog of previous family-friendly and blockbuster titles. The demo video can be found here, which will be played in cinemas around the UK.

Comedian Henning Wehn said in a new BBFC podcast episode: “I remember many, many moons ago. I was a teenager and I was up late with my father and then Trainspotting came on. There’s obviously quite a lot of nudity and swearing and drug taking, and well - neither of us knew quite where to look.” He added: “We haven’t got the kettle in Germany. It’s not like, oh my god, make a cup of tea - so that option was taken from us.”  

David Austin OBE, Chief Executive of the BBFC said: “This new feature is designed for busy parents. Imagine that you’re in a cinema queue and you’ve got no time to read even a couple of paragraphs about what’s in a film. We’re now showing the age rating with dots to indicate strength of content issues, so that parents can see what a film contains at a glance, and why it received a particular age rating.” 

Recent research by the BBFC highlighted an increased demand in age ratings and content advice more broadly. Insights showed that 95% of parents/caregivers of 4-to 12-year-olds check age ratings for the content their children watch, while over half (57%) of teens aged 16-19 admitted to reviewing age ratings when deciding what to watch. In relation to content advice, 85% of parents/caregivers of 4-to 15-year-olds and 71% of teens aged 16-19 stated that it is useful for everyone and not just for parents. 

For more information, please get in touch with Izzy Baker or Tasha Bourke on +447946 423719 or Further information and press assets can also be found on the Media Centre.

For parents/caregivers

Top awkward/embarrassing viewing moments ranked:

  1. Sex scenes (66%)
  2. Nudity (41%)
  3. Sexual references (40%)
  4. Bad language / swearing (38%)
  5. Kissing (31%)
  6. Rude humour (27%)
  7. Violence (21%)
  8. Drug use (12%)

Preferred behaviours to adopt:

  1. Make a joke (35%)
  2. Strike up a conversation (26%)
  3. Fast forward (26%)
  4. Change the channel (22%) 
  5. Sit in silence (20%)
  6. Go on phone (11%)
  7. Cover your eyes (6%)
  8. Leave the room (4%)
  9. Make a cup of tea (4%)

For young people aged 12-19

Top awkward/embarrassing viewing moments ranked:

  1. Kissing (54%)
  2. Sex scenes (for 17-19 only: 40%)
  3. Nudity (for 17-19 only: 32%)
  4. Rude humour (30%)
  5. Sexual references (30%)
  6. Bad language / swearing (15%)
  7. Violence (7%)
  8. Drug use (for 17-19 only: 4%)

Preferred behaviours to adopt:

  1. Sit in silence (45%)
  2. Go on my phone (44%)
  3. Make a joke (25%)
  4. Cover your eyes (17%)
  5. Fast forward (11%)
  6. Leave the room (9%) 
  7. Strike up a conversation (9%)
  8. Change the channel (7%)
  9. Make a cup of tea (4%)

The BBFC is independent and not-for-profit, and here to help everyone in the UK - especially children and families - choose age-appropriate films, videos and websites, wherever and however they watch or use them. Now, as well as classifying films released in UK cinemas and on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s providing age-ratings for Video On Demand and music videos online, and helping mobile phone operators set parental controls at the right level. Please visit or download the free app from the App Store or Google Play for further information.

The research was administered by YouGov and was conducted in January 2023. It involved a nationally representative sample of parents and caregivers, and young people aged 12-19 across a wide range of demographics. The quantitative methods involved a survey of 1,500 people across the UK.