From today, it is an offence for retail or rental outlets to supply a DVD/video to a person under the designated age. However, the ability of children to download inappropriate material from the internet remains a grey area.
The change is part of new legislation, the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008, which amends some sections of the Censorship of Films Act, 1923 and the Video Recordings Act, 1989.
It comes as the Irish Film Censor’s Office is rebranded to become the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO).
“Just as Ireland has changed profoundly in recent years, so too has film censorship. We’ve moved far away from the nanny state, moralguardian censorship of yesteryear towards an acceptance of the general principle that, in a mature society, adults should be free (subject to the law) to make their own choices,” said the director of film classification, John Kelleher.
But what about children making their own choices about what films to watch? True, outlets can be fined up to €2,000 now for selling age-inappropriate DVDs, but this will only happen if an adult decides to take action. How many parents are going to call the Gardaí if their 14-year old comes home with an over-16 DVD?
And then there’s the internet. Downloading of movies from websites hasn’t caught on here to any great extent – the two main sources are Moviestar.ie and Xbox Live from Microsoft. Because using these services requires a credit card or billing, users should be over 18 – unless of course children are using their parents’ cards.
In addition, anyone can download film clips from social networking sites without disclosing their real age. Most sites with legitimate content will ask users to enter an age but there is no way of verifying that this is accurate.
MRBI carried out a survey on attitudes to classification for IFCO last year which showed that 85pc of the 1,000 people surveyed would like to see IFCO’s age ratings on films downloaded over the internet. Asked which types of screen media they believe can have the most potentially negative effect on children, 44pc of respondents said the internet, 32pc video games, 17pc TV, 4pc DVDs and 2pc cinema.
Mark Brennan, assistant classifier at IFCO, pointed out that parents can check the classification of any cinema released film on the website www.ifco.ie. Only 12pc of those in the MRBI survey were aware of this. In 2007, almost 9,000 cinema films and DVDs were certified by IFCO. “We want to be a trustmark for parents,” said Brennan.
The classifications are there, but ultimately parents still have to supervise what films their children are watching if they want to be sure they’re not being exposed to anything harmful.
By Sorcha Corcoran
Pictured: The Dark Knight, the new batman movie starring Christian Bale, which has received an IFCO classification of 15A