John Dyer and Helen Pang, Project Managers
London, United Kingdom
The main website for the British Board of Film
Classification, the UK's regulatory body for all films, videos
and DVDs, contains language that is considered unsuitable for
children and young people, because of the nature of the work that
Therefore, as part of the BBFC's educational outreach activities,
we decided to create a website specifically aimed at children
between the ages of 8 to 11.
Aims and objectives
To give 8-11 year olds a clearer understanding of how and why films, videos and DVDs are classified in the UK. At this age, children's viewing habits are still largely determined by their parents, and we hope to empower them by providing information on the classification process, which can sometimes appear confusing to the public. We hope that the website will help improve their media awareness in a positive manner and enable them to make more informed and safe choices about what they watch, both at home and in the cinema. More importantly, it provides children with an opportunity to voice their own opinions and views about film classification, which we value greatly.
8-11 year olds, although we have had visitors younger, as well as older, than our target audience, which is most encouraging and welcome. The website is about film classification in the UK, yet we have received constructive feedback from children and adults around the world, who are interested in this subject and in films in general.
cbbfc is also aimed at teachers looking for information about film classification, so that it can be taught in the classroom. There are a number of activities with which children can get involved, either interactively, or by downloading or printing worksheets. All such features have been designed with the UK National Curriculum and the National Literacy Strategy in mind, and can be used by teachers as part of schemes of work within a classroom setting. Parents can also learn more about the different classification categories, make better choices about their children's viewing habits and discuss these with their children at home.
Involvement of children
The cbbfc website was developed with the assistance of a class of 10 to 11 year old pupils from St Mary's Primary School in Marylebone, London. They attended a number of workshops that we held at the school over a period of several months. We presented the website to them, still in its developmental stage, and many helpful suggestions were offered. During the workshops, the class also tested its functionality and it was extremely helpful to see how the website could be used on a practical level. Also present at the workshops were the web designers, who took the advice on board and reworked the website to the children's satisfaction. The class then helped to publicise cbbfc by attending its official Press Launch, which was held at their school. More recently in January 2004, several pupils from St Mary's went to promote the site at the Media Literacy Day event held at BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), where a distinguished guest, the British Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, also visited cbbfc. On a daily level, children email us with opinions and questions about film classification, and the site gives them a voice in the adult-oriented media regulation process. We respond to each email individually and provide the information and advice that they request. They also send in their personal Film Reviews of children's films, which can be accessed on the website. This is a rich resource by and for young people, which provides fascinating and informative reading. And finally, children can be hands-on Film Examiners in our interactive Viewing Room, where they can watch trailers of upcoming films and classify them according to our Guidelines.
Summary of project
cbbfc is the British Board of Film Classification's educational website aimed at 8-11 year old children, their parents and teachers. It aims to explain, in an engaging and interactive way, how and why films, videos and DVDs are classified in the UK, so that children can learn how to make educated choices about what they watch at home or in the cinema. More importantly, it provides children with an opportunity to voice their own opinions and views about the subject, which we value greatly.
The cbbfc website is self-funded by the British Board of Film Classification, a not-for-profit organisation.
Initial set-up costs total US$14,500.00 and annual maintenance costs are approximately US$9000.00.
Strengths of project
We believe cbbfc to be a unique website, as no other classification body runs such a child-oriented project. It has received much attention and positive feedback at international conferences and presentations, including:
The cbbfc website has been averaging 17,000-18,000 hits per month over the last eight months since its launch, but we are working hard to steadily increase the number of visitors. In a bid to increase awareness of the site and its resources to both children and teachers, we have organised a nationwide tour for 2004. Each event will involve a screening of a current children's film, as well as a brief introduction to the work of the BBFC and the cbbfc website, along with viewing of clips, discussion, competitions and other fun activities. We hope to reach thousands of children, and their teachers, over the course of the tour, which will also give us an opportunity to discuss important issues with them face to face. Maintaining the website on a daily basis and keeping the content fresh and interesting is another challenge that we face, but we now receive much support from the film distributors, who regularly provide us with the latest film trailers, which has made our job much easier.
It is vital that children are provided with opportunities to voice their opinions, not just on film classification, but on everything that affects their lives. BBFC Film Examiners need to remain in constant touch with the viewers for whom we classify, and yet it is so easy to forget the younger age group. Through cbbfc, we have learned much from the contributions and responses of children and as we near our first anniversary, we hope that we have contributed in some small way to enabling their voices to be heard.
Anecdotes (unedited feedback emails from the public)
'I have an idea for a film and I am only 10 years old. I need your help as to who I should send my idea to'
'Is it a full time job? Is the pay any good? How would I start if I wanted to get in a job like this?...sounds fun!!! Do you get days where you don't fancy watching films?'
'I am doing a project about classifications
in films. I am wondering whether you agree that ratings in films
are going down the drain.
9 year olds watch 15's! I'm 13 and have just gained the privelidge
of watching 12's and 12A's legally. Do you believe that this should
happen and that nobody even looks at the ratings on the back of
films and instead just watches the film whatever age they are?'
'Hello, I am really interested in becoming an examinar of film and videos and would like to know how to become one. What qualifications needed, or courses to complete. I hope you can advise me or point me in the right direction. Thanking you for your time'
'Is there a real place like this'
'Hello! What kind of (British) genre is most popular by the English people? What sort of British genre is popular in other countries?
'I think that the rating of films is a little bit unfair and a
bit unreasonable some films are rated as a 18 and should only be
a 15. I also think there should be and 15a because all the mature
13-14 yr olds want to watch the films to eaven if it with an adult!!!'