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Summary:

If streaming content is the future then I need a filter for my daughter. I realized this a few months ago after I searched for the movie Ponyo on Netflix and for weeks afterward saw the movie Pornography appear in the search-results screen.

netflix kids titles

If streaming content is the future, then I need a better filter for my five-year-old daughter. I realized this a few months ago after I searched for the movie Ponyo on Netflix and for weeks afterward saw the movie Pornography appear in the search-results screen, right next to the animated story about a fish who turns into a girl.

Every time I’m streaming music through Pandora and I get an unedited version of song, or something wholly inappropriate, I’m reminded again that while I may love the ability to get anything on the web, I’m not as fond of the idea that my daughter might inadvertently encounter it. Recently, Netflix made its user interface more kid friendly, by reducing the need for literacy to navigate its child-friendly offerings.

I appreciated this, as does my daughter, who can now watch Hello Kitty or the Backyardigans without intervention from me or my husband on Saturday mornings. And yet, I worry that she might click on something or stream music to her and encounter something she’s not equipped to handle or just not ready to hear.

Netflix has some confusing options available on its service to create profiles that limit someone from accessing content above a certain rating level, but it means the account is locked from viewing mature content –sometimes for longer than the parent may anticipate. Also depending on the device by which one accesses Netflix streaming, other limits can be set. But on the whole, the policing systems are confusing, non-existant, or sometimes impose a waiting period before an adult can reverse it.

I understand that it’s my job to police my daughter, but I can’t help thinking about child-protective caps. There’s an acknowledgment that the harm to children from guzzling a bottle of aspirin makes it worthwhile to put a more difficult cap on it. This isn’t about stopping a determined 10-year-old from getting a headache pill; it’s about stopping a four-year-old from self-medicating out of ignorance. And when something is as ubiquitous as the web, and the content can be very child-unfriendly, the development of some type of filters or barriers seems desirable. Netflix is apparently thinking about creating such a filter, but they haven’t yet.

I’m not talking about something intrusive like a v-chip, or something that couldn’t be circumvented by a determined child. I am most certainly not talking about some kind of government intervention. I’m not as worried about keeping my 12-year-old daughter from discovering R-rated (or even NC-17-rated) movies or realizing that Rihanna likes her sex rough; I’m simply worried about keeping a four-year-old or a six-year-old from encountering things that will upset and confuse her.

I think the Internet and streaming services could use a version of a child-proof cap. Something to corral off acceptable content for children so it’s easier for parents to protect their offspring in an easy manner without forcing that behavior on those who don’t want it. Something as simple as clicking a box to avoid explicit lyrics on Pandora perhaps, or being able to place certain movies available for streaming in an account, while other movies have to be searched for by name.

I would even pay for such features — although there are plenty of startups trying to create safe places on the web such as NetNanny or KidZui, I’m not looking for something so extreme. There are also marketing-dominated virtual worlds where your offspring may be safe from crass language or behavior, but not crass consumerism. I have no idea if I’m alone in my desires, or if this is such a temporary stage that it’s not worthwhile to try to implement any of these features — but I can’t help but think that as well as making information more available, we owe it to ourselves to think about who’ss accessing that information, and give parents to the tools to control how and when their children encounter it, just as we do in the real world.

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  1. I agree, a great parental control system for young kids would be great, but the systems should really be designed around the 7-12 year-old as you should be watching your 4-6 year-old and what they watch. If you’re letting them watch show after show unsupervised, do you really care what they see? If they are watching with their clever 10 year-old sibling, the simple parental controls are out the window anyway.

    Netflix has parental controls and profiles. As does TiVo and a number of the MVPDs. I haven’t checked out how long it takes to change the permissions, but I find it hard to believe that it still takes 8 hours for the permission to be fixed on the server. Did you verify this?

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Aaron Monday, October 17, 2011

      On Netflix it took longer than an hour to change out my parental controls when I tried it Sunday night. Given that I only have about two hours after my daughter goes to bed and I do, an hour is too long.

  2. This is exactly why we created Ameba. A safe viewing environment for children, where parents can act as the programmer – if they so desire.

    We had run into too many parents that decided to eliminate TV from their children’s media menu because of all of the questionable content presented to them. We felt that TV is such a powerful and convenient medium to educate, entertain and empower that we had to look at the entire media consumption experience from a whole new angle.

    We created a commercial free IPTV system focusing on kids content so that parents can feel comfortable about what their children are watching. Ameba is also multi-platform and the viewer can migrate from LG Smart TV, to Roku, to Mobile without losing the richness, and safety, of the media experience.

    We did a lot of homework before deciding on the children’s media niche. Netflix is a great company with a powerful media platform but their main focus is on mainstream adult oriented media. The children’s genre is just that, a genre and not a focus. By having R rated content just a click away from G rated content the entire platform loses its ability to be kid safe. Their recommendation engine is so expansive and thorough that providing a rating for Curious George will bring up a recommendation for Bowling for Columbine. For an adult viewer, it may be relevant; for a child viewer it is not.

    Content censorship is not the solution either. Control should be given to parents to help them shape and mold the viewing experience so that they can be sure that the media their children are consuming are in line with their own social and moral values – what ever they may be. Parents are the best judge of what is acceptable and not acceptable for their children. Selection of media for your children should not be left up to broadcasters and advertisers.

    Every year there are less and less controls imposed on broadcasters and advertisers. They keep pushing the envelope of what they can do – it is part of the creative and capitalistic process. As parents, you can chose to support mainstream media outlets and try to change the way they operate or support new and emerging outlets that are forming right now and are listening to your demands and requirements for a better media outlet. The choice is yours.

  3. KilltheCable Bill Monday, October 17, 2011

    Try using the “Just for Kids” tab. Its a recent addition that makes children friendly content easily accessible.

  4. You are not alone, Stacey. I would also like to have these safeguards. On my Comcast DVR (seriously, Comcast – not the world’s most consumer friendly company) I can lock certain shows with a 4-digit code. It’s not a comprehensive solution, but it is fast, intuitive, and easy for me to bypass or reverse if needed.

    @KilltheCable Bill – the “Just for Kids” tab, as Stacey mentioned above, does make browsing easier for kids, but it doesn’t prevent them from browsing the entire Netflix catalog. It’s a filter, not a lock.

  5. Pandora actually does have an explicit content filter, right in your settings, and they have since I’ve been using them.

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