Most children have seen media content that upset them in the past year - research

Nearly 90 percent of Kiwi children have seen content that has upset them in the past year, new research has found.

Research carried out for the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) and New Zealand On Air found almost 90 percent of children aged between 10 and 14 had viewed upsetting content in the last 12 months - often animal torture and sex scenes.

But most of them knew to change channels or click out of a website and tell an adult when they saw the content, according to the research.

Parents reported that their children's behaviour could be negatively impacted, including learning inappropriate words, having nightmares, and imitating aggressive behaviour.

"It is challenging for children to navigate the wide range of content that is now so easily accessible to them," BSA chief executive Belinda Moffatt said.

"This is why classifications, parental locks, and filtering software are so important and it is heartening to see more families using safeguards and supporting kids in this dynamic environment.

"The findings have told us what upsets children, so anyone who produces content for them or has a role in protecting them from harmful content can see where to focus their efforts on harm reduction and safeguards."

Nearly 80 percent of parents surveyed were proactive in managing content their children watched. The previous research commissioned in 2014 revealed only between 17 and 26 percent of parents managed content.

"The research also shows parents and caregivers continue to have a big role to play in protecting children, with 89-92 percent of tamariki feeling better after they have told an adult about something that has upset them," Moffatt said.

"We undertook this research with NZ On Air, with the intention that it will be useful to the wide range of organisations and agencies in New Zealand that work to provide children with safe access to appropriate, stimulating and entertaining content."

Parents, meanwhile, want their children to watch more content that's made in New Zealand. Three-quarters of those surveyed say it's important for their children to watch local content that reflects them and their world but many young people (65 percent) don't have a favourite Kiwi-made show.

"This research shows New Zealand parents and children clearly want and appreciate the value of local content but they are not discovering it, and we need to work with content creators and platforms to change that," said Amie Mills, head of funding at NZ On Air. 

"We are passionate about our tamariki growing up with New Zealand stories and songs, accents, and familiar places in the media they consume.

"It's how our young people develop their sense of identity and culture."