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Manchester High School for Girls

Student Calls for Stricter Control of Online Streaming

Sixth Form student, Riya, is taking on some of the world’s biggest online streaming platforms in a bid to ensure that films and series that are screened online in the UK are classified, in order to safeguard children’s viewing choices. 

It all began when the 17-year-old Manchester High student decided to write her Extended Project Qualification on the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.   She wanted to explore the impact of the series on teens and whether there was any truth in the notion that it encouraged US teenagers to commit suicide.   

Riya said, “There had been a lot of publicity surrounding the teen series and, as a Psychology A-level student, I thought it would be interesting to research the influence of films and drama series on teenagers.”  She continued, “I was shocked to discover that, unlike films that are released at the cinema or on DVD, there is no mandatory certification for series that are streamed on platforms like Prime, Netflix and other Video on Demand (VoD) apps.”

Indeed, whilst the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) provides guidance to parents and children about content in films, allowing them to choose what’s right and what’s not, this does not appear to be the case with online viewing. 

Concerned by the fact that children could be exposed to shows that are not age appropriate, the sixth former quietly set up an online petition on Change.org to raise awareness of the lack of regulations surrounding online viewing. The petition rapidly gained momentum and secured over 300 signatures in a matter of days. Riya took the signatures to local Member of Parliament, Sir Graham Brady, who in turn, escalated her concerns and raised the issue with the Minister for State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez MP. 

In late November, Riya, received a response from Ms Lopez.  It appears that a recent consultation on audience protection standards has “asked for views on whether age ratings should be mandated on VoD services, as well as the role of other audience protection measures, such as pin codes and content warnings.”

The responses to that consultation are currently being analysed and will be reported in due course, but it is evident that Riya is part of a much larger discussion on VoD and the coming months will surely see an increase in media coverage on the issue.

Head Mistress of Manchester High School for Girls, Mrs Jeys, is incredibly proud of the work that Riya has done.  She said, “This is fantastic to see her taking such responsibility for her peers and those younger than her.  Wonderful.”

Riya hopes to study Medicine at university next year but, in the meantime, she will be keeping a close eye on the progress of VoD regulation and will continue to raise awareness of the current issues surrounding streaming.