Streaming Services Target R-Rated Content at Kids, Teens, Watchdog Group Warns

Photo from Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

Streaming Services Target R-Rated Content at Kids, Teens, Watchdog Group Warns

By Movieguide® Contributor

A new blog post from the parental watchdog group Parents Television and Media Council warns that Netflix and Prime Video are promoting content to kids and teens that should be R-rated.

Many of the top shows on these streaming services frequently use explicit content, nudity and foul language. 

The blog post noted that Prime Video’s DAISY JONES AND THE SIX, rated “16+,” includes the f-word 52 times in the first three episodes, while Netflix’s most recent season of STRANGER THINGS, rated TV-14, included the f-bomb nine times.

The frequency of foul language would have landed these shows with an R rating if they were released in theaters, yet both were rated as appropriate for teens on the streaming platforms.

“Everything is amped up 10, 20 times over what you would have seen on broadcast and cable. So there’s a lot more explicit sexual content, a lot more nudity and a lot more foul language than we’ve ever seen before on broadcast or cable,” Melissa Henson, Vice President of the Parents Television and Media Council, said.

“Two decades age, many parent never would have considered subscribing to HBO, Cinemax or Showtime for their children due to the mature content on those platforms,” she continued. “Today, though, such content is readily available on the major streaming platforms and is being pushed toward minors.”

While many of the top cable shows are appropriately rated for children and teens, six of the top ten most popular streaming shows are rated TV-MA and prominently feature coarse language.

“I don’t see any evidence that this is demand-driven. I don’t see any evidence that people are saying, ‘Boy, I really would have enjoyed SURVIVOR a whole lot more if only there were more f-words.’ Nobody thinks like that,” Henson said.

Movieguide® frequently reports on how increased foul language doesn’t improve movies and instead causes them to bomb at the box office. 

The normalcy of coarse language on screen has real-world effects seen in the increased profanity use by children and teens.

“To the extent that kids are seeing this on screens, and they’re seeing kids that look like them, and kids that are their own age speaking like this, it makes it seem like, ‘Oh. Well, this is just how kids talk nowadays.’ And that should not be normalized,” Henson said.

The inaccurate ratings stem from how streaming services rate their content. While a third party rates movies and cable content, the content on streaming services is rated in-house, meaning Netflix and Amazon Prime set the ratings for their own content.

This problem will likely persist until more regulations are placed on streaming services, bringing them closer to cable and movie regulations.

Movieguide® previously reported on the impact foul language in entertainment can have on children:

Exposure to obscenity and profanity in the mass media, including video games, is also correlated with behavior, including aggression and violence.

There is research evidence showing that swearing in TV, movies and video games is related to adolescents adopting coarse language and aggressive behavior, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics


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