Published: 12th January 2023

UK families consider age ratings and content advice to be as important on streaming services as they are in the cinema, finds new research from the BBFC

  • 90% of parents/caregivers and 80% of teens want consistency across all services.

  • The majority (61%) of parents/caregivers are concerned with services each using different criteria when classifying content.

  • UK families are calling for the body responsible for deciding age ratings and content advice to be: transparent; independent from the services; up to date with audience sentiment; reflective of the country’s cultural values.

  • Download the full report below.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has today published findings from new research into attitudes and understanding of age ratings and content advice among UK-based parents and caregivers of 4-to 15-year-olds, as well as young people aged 12-19. The study reveals that nine in ten (90%) parents/caregivers of 4-to 15-year-olds and eight in ten (80%) teenagers aged 16-19 consider age ratings and content advice to be of equal importance on Video on Demand (VoD)/streaming services as they are for films in the cinema.

The research, conducted by We Are Family, surveyed a nationally representative sample of respondents using qualitative and quantitative techniques, including a series of in-person focus groups. The research goal was to assess UK families’ views on age rating systems across VoD/streaming services, and to analyse perceptions of trust and usefulness of age ratings and content advice.

The research shows a high demand for both age ratings and content advice on VoD/streaming services, particularly amongst parents and caregivers. Young people also see the value of such guidance: over half (51%) of teens aged 16-19 check content advice before choosing what to watch, and nearly nine in ten (89%) said that they pay more attention to content advice if choosing for a person younger than them, such as siblings or other family members. 

Insights show 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 specifically, 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. 

The majority of parents/caregivers (61%) of 4-to 15-year-olds said that they would be concerned if VoD/streaming services each used different criteria when deciding the age ratings and content advice for their content. The biggest concern (53%) cited was around the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content, alongside the erosion of trust in age ratings generally. When considering the potential impact of children's exposure to inappropriate content, 64% of the sample were concerned about young people seeing and imitating anti-social behaviours (such as drug misuse and violence).

Meanwhile, the report shares meaningful insight into what UK families believe are the most important attributes for the people responsible for setting age ratings and content advice. These included transparency; independence from the platforms; being up to date with public sentiment; and being reflective of the country’s cultural values. These attributes are in line with the three reasons the UK Government has given for viewing BBFC ratings as best practice for age labelling on VoD/streaming services in its recent response to the 2021 consultation on VOD Audience Protection Standards: that they are widely recognised by the public, underpinned by a transparent set of standards and informed by regular consultation with the UK public. There was also a consistent assumption amongst participants in the focus groups that age ratings and content advice are determined by a single body that is independent of the VoD/streaming services, regardless of where the content is hosted, and a belief that this was a legal requirement. Participants were surprised to learn that this is not the case.

In-depth focus group sessions revealed that people across all ages have spontaneous recall for BBFC age rating categories, citing them as trustworthy and recognisable. The cohort of young people aged 12-19 participating in the focus groups also repeatedly referenced the importance of standards and practices being updated in line with changes in society. The BBFC updates its Classification Guidelines every 4-5 years, through an extensive consultation process involving more than 10,000 people from all across the UK. The BBFC will consult on its guidelines in 2023, with any changes required by the research coming into force in early 2024.

Natasha Kaplinsky OBE, President of the BBFC, said: “As a mother of teenagers, I know first-hand how challenging it is for young people growing up at a time when they are constantly bombarded by different types of content. The inconsistency across streaming services makes it even more challenging for parents and caregivers to determine what is appropriate for children and teenagers to view. With an increased presence of our trusted BBFC guidance online, it will make it easier for parents, families, and young people across the UK to navigate their viewing choices. As a family, we have always relied on the BBFC classification system, and I look forward to seeing further coverage of BBFC age ratings and content advice online.”

David Austin OBE, Chief Executive of the BBFC, added: “This new report contributes to a growing body of evidence for our BBFC age ratings to be applied more consistently online. People in the UK know and trust our ratings from the cinema and from packaged media, and they find the present inconsistency of standards across streaming services to be confusing and unhelpful. Our innovative partnership with Netflix has proved that 100% coverage of our age ratings and content advice is achievable for even the largest platforms. Helping UK families choose content well, wherever and however they watch it, is a key priority for the BBFC. Everything we do is led by what audiences tell us, and we look forward to embarking on our next guidelines consultation this year.”

Currently, the BBFC works with 29 VoD/streaming services in the UK to provide age ratings for content on a voluntary best practice basis. Amongst others, these platforms include Apple TV+, Curzon Home Cinema, Lionsgate+, Prime Video, Rakuten TV, Sky Store, YouTube Movies, as well as Netflix, who carry BBFC age ratings and content advice across their entire UK catalogue. For more information on the BBFC’s work with video on demand (VOD) platforms, please visit the BBFC website here. For more details on the key insights and research analysis, download the full report below.

Notes For Editors:

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

The research was administered by We Are Family and was conducted from September- November 2022. It involved a nationally representative sample of parents and caregivers of children between the ages of 4-15, and teenagers aged 12-19 across a wide range of demographics. Respondents for the research were recruited by Engine Rooms (qualitative) and Dynata (quantitative).

The qualitative research comprised four 90-minute in-person focus groups with the following: parents/caregivers of 4- to 7-year-olds; parents/caregivers of 8-to 11-year-olds; 12-to 15-year-olds; 16-to 19-year-olds. The quantitative methods involved a survey of over 1,000 people across the UK.

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 for further information.

We Are Family is the world’s biggest and most experienced full-service agency group that specialises in children, young people and their families. They are the global experts in children, young people and family marketing, working with clients at all stages of the campaign process. From initial consumer research and inspiring creative ideation through to the execution and delivery; from regional through to global executions, they offer a bespoke, reliable and enjoyable working experience for every client. 

They are innovators with a broad discipline expertise, understanding the market like no other, and in doing so, they work with, and are trusted by, some of the world’s biggest family brands. Their research and insights team are some of the most experienced and respected qualitative and quantitative researchers within the family audience, delivering exceptional insight into kids, Gen Z and families with global reach and international and regional relevance.

They are a truly international agency group with a breadth and depth of in-house talent; an unrivalled network of creatives, marketing experts and research specialists across the globe, operating in 15 territories across 30 countries and counting; from Munich and Madrid to Milan and Melbourne. They develop, execute and deliver a broad range of diverse and dynamic stories with our trademark quality and expertise.

BBFC Research - January 2023

PDF | 1.81 MB