Kijkwijzer has been informing parents and children about violence, coarse language or drugs in films since 2001 by means of black and white pictograms. But who decides whether, for example Pete Bell harmful to children? Is that system still up to date?
Twintig jaar lang kon iedereen met een gerust hart Pietje Bell kijken, maar vorige maand werd het leeftijdsadvies van de film ineens aangepast naar twaalf jaar en ouder.
Dat gebeurde na klachten over bepaalde scènes die het Nederlands Instituut voor de Classificatie van Audiovisuele Media (NICAM) ontving. Die organisatie is verantwoordelijk voor Kijkwijzer. Na flinke ophef werd de leeftijdskwalificatie binnen een week een tweede keer aangepast: inmiddels is de film geschikt voor negen jaar en ouder bevonden.
NICAM ontvangt jaarlijks gemiddeld 225 klachten. “We zien dat mensen in de loop van de jaren met name over geweld klagen”, zegt directeur Tiffany van Stormbroek tegen NU.nl. “Normen verschuiven en zaken die twintig jaar geleden werden geaccepteerd, worden nu anders beoordeeld.”
“Kijkwijzer volgt die maatschappelijke ontwikkelingen en past zich onder meer aan op basis van media-aanbod en onderzoek onder ouders en kinderen. Zo zijn bijvoorbeeld de leeftijdsgrenzen van Kijkwijzer in de loop der jaren uitgebreid. Waar eerst alleen de categorieën ‘zes jaar’ en ‘twaalf jaar’ bestonden, is later ‘negen jaar’ toegevoegd. Dit is mede door de films van Harry Potter gebeurd.”
Movies and programs can be harmful
Kijkwijzer was set up in 2001 to inform parents and help them choose media for their children. Films, programs and series may contain images that may be harmful to young viewers.
For example, children can become aggressive or frightened when they see violence. Or they start thinking about violence easily: it dulls them. Scary images can frighten children, become frightened and restless or have nightmares.
But how does the advice come about? That may not go as you expect: it is the providers who assess their productions themselves. They do this on the basis of a questionnaire developed by Kijkwijzer.
Based on the answers to those questions, a computer program calculates which age advice is given. “Anyone who disagrees with a Kijkwijzer recommendation can submit a complaint to NICAM”, emphasizes Van Stormbroek. A single complaint is enough to take a closer look at this advice and adjust it if necessary.
That advice always consists of an age statement (all ages, six years, nine years, twelve years, fourteen years, sixteen years or eighteen years) and up to three pictograms that explain why a certain age is associated with a film or program (violence, fear , sex, foul language, discrimination and smoking, alcohol and drugs).
Advice determines broadcast times
The advice also has consequences for broadcast times on television. Films and programs with the age recommendation ‘all ages’, ‘six years’ and ‘nine years’ may be broadcast all day. For the advice ‘twelve years’, ‘fourteen years’ and ‘sixteen years’ a broadcasting time applies between 8 pm and 6 am and for ‘eighteen years’ between midnight and 6 am.
“A majority of parents still want children on open channels not to be confronted with violent images during the day,” says Van Stormbroek.
What about the online environment? Since 1 July 2022, according to the Media Act, uploaders on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok with more than 500,000 followers are also obliged to use the Kijkwijzer. Streaming services such as Netflix, Videoland and Disney+ also use Kijkwijzer and show the icons for films and series.
Filmmakers criticize Kijkwijzer
Makers of series and films are critical of Kijkwijzer’s advice. They naturally want their productions to be seen by as many people as possible.
Producer Dave Schram of Pete Bell submitted a complaint to NICAM after the adjustment of the age advice. He wants his film to be for all ages again. Schram says he is in no way involved by NICAM in the “re-examination” of his film. Moreover, he does not understand the new classification.
It is not the first time that Schram is at odds with NICAM. In 2013 he even went to court because he did not agree with an adjustment of the age advice for his film Mike says hi! After three complaints about a romp in the film, the advice was changed from ‘all ages’ to ‘six years and older’.
Cinemas must follow Kijkwijzer’s advice
Cinemas also have to deal with Kijkwijzer: they are obliged to follow the advice. For films with an age recommendation of six, nine, twelve and fourteen years, children under that age are only admitted together with an adult.
A child under the age of sixteen is not allowed to see a film with an age recommendation of sixteen or eighteen. Not even accompanied by an adult. A cinema that does not comply with the rules can even be fined.
For parents, the advice remains without obligation. Patti Valkenburg, one of the creators of Kijkwijzer, argues against NU.nl that the advice should be about informing parents. “An annoying side effect of Kijkwijzer is that it is linked to laws that stipulate that children are not allowed to see certain films in the cinema and that part of the programs may not be broadcast during the day,” says Valkenburg.
“Parents know best what their child can handle and the decision whether or not to watch something should lie with them. It is a pity that the current criticism of Kijkwijzer is in fact often criticism of these laws.”