40 Percent of Netflix Teen Programs Rated TV-MA, New Study Shows

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Published Apr 28, 2020
40 Percent of Netflix Teen Programs Rated TV-MA, New Study Shows

More than two-thirds of Netflix programming aimed at teens is rated TV-MA, while much of its TV-14 teen content is littered with strong language that would not be permitted on similarly rated broadcast programming, according to a new study.

The Parents Television Council study examined 255 titles in Netflix’s platform labeled for teens, including 96 that were Netflix originals. Among all teen titles, 40.8 percent were rated TV-MA, while 55.2 percent of Netflix teen originals were rated that way.

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board defines a TV-MA program as one “specifically designed to be viewed by adults.” Netflix’s own website says TV-MA programs are for adults.

Meanwhile, some of Netflix’s most popular original titles rated TV-14 contain strong language. The TV-14 movie The Kissing Booth included three f-words and 12 instances of “s--t,” while three seasons of Stranger Things had 11 f-words and 257 examples of “s--t.” Such language would not have been included on a TV-14 broadcast program, which faces FCC restrictions Netflix does not.

“Our findings clearly demonstrate that Netflix is marketing explicit content to children,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “… Explicit profanity like the ‘f-word’ and ‘s-word’ are nearly ubiquitous on Netflix’s Teen programming, revealing an apparent disconnect between what Netflix deems appropriate for teen viewers and what the average parent might consider appropriate.”

Netflix categorizes its own programming and rates most of it, too. Too often, Winter said, Netflix hinders parents in their job of guarding what is seen in the home.

“Either the content is being rated inaccurately, or there has been considerable ‘ratings creep’ with the criteria used to determine an age-based rating,” Winter said. “Neither option allows parents to do their job effectively. And even more importantly, this reveals huge problems with the ratings systems since parents are told to rely on the content ratings to protect their children from explicit content.”

The study relied on Netflix’s own categories. All total, 23 Netflix categories out of more than 3,600 category designations included the word “teens” – such as “teen dramas,” “teen movies” and “romantic teen comedies.”

“Parents deserve a ratings system that is transparent and consistent across platforms,” the study said. “Our report suggests there to be a vastly different standard between streaming content and broadcast content – even if that content is similarly-rated. If a TV-14 doesn’t mean the same thing on Netflix as it does on CBS, it is of little to no value to parents.”

Photo courtesy: Unsplah/Charles

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.