NZ Classification Office hires teens for new campaign short film

The office in charge of censoring New Zealand's media has employed two teenage film makers to launch its new media literacy campaign.

Their short film represents a major shift from the increasingly obsolete censorship model of simply 'don't watch'.

It's only 60 seconds long, but the film tackles a difficult theme for young people. It shows a young girl being peer-pressured into watching a film about an assault that, for her, is all too real.

The underlying message is that it's not everyone's fiction, so be careful what you share.

"Obviously things that are okay for you to watch are not automatically okay for other people to watch," says creator Grace Medlicott.

That message is often lost on young people, and exposure to potentially harmful media is a growing problem.

Online content can't always be controlled with traditional censorship, so Wellingtonian Grace and her cousin Finn Culver are encouraging people to think about what they share.

"A lot of people are desensitised to this stuff, but then a lot of people aren't," says Finn.

The 15-year-olds were commissioned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification to help launch its media literacy campaign.

'Mind over Media' shifts the traditional censorship model of 'don't watch' to a more relevant model around 'watch carefully, think critically'.

Chief censor David Shanks says in the digital age, it's proving difficult to keep people from consuming media that could be harmful.

"I think today more than ever, there's some real challenges around keeping young people safe and informed."

That's because most media is not 'rated' or previewed by a Classifications Officer. Images are constantly pushed at young people through multiple platforms.

There's no stopping it - so this new model focuses on educating young people about what they're watching.

"Yes, ratings and classifications play a part," says Mr Shanks. 

"But more than that, questions about how we think about what we view and how we treat each other."

It comes down to media literacy - the ability to access, analyse and understand media.

Young people are increasingly adept at accessing it, but the Chief Censor wants to see more education around properly processing what they see.