Do Parental Controls Make Netflix Safe For Kids to Watch?

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How to watch Netflix overseasIt’s every parent’s nightmare: You walk into a room and find your eight-year-old watching a movie or TV show filled with graphic violence, explicit sex scenes, and vulgar language. In these modern times of accessible Internet and TV programming, age-inappropriate material is already far too easy for our children to get their hands on. So how can we, as parents, make sure that our kids are watching stuff that won’t give them the wrong messages at a highly impressionable age?

Movie streaming subscription services have become a favorite for family entertainment, especially popular and accessible choices like Netflix that can be watched anywhere with a VPN. Many online streaming services (including Netflix) do contain a built-in Parental Controls setting that offer a considerable degree of protection. These content monitoring settings can make it easier for a watchful parent to put blanket restrictions on what types of movies and TV material their children can access and watch.

Setup instructions for these controls are generally user friendly and can be accessed from the Your Account menu by clicking on the Manage Profiles option. Netflix’s parental controls can be changed from a computer, and any changes you make will apply to all devices that are signed in to that Netflix account, including tablets, smartphones, and other computers. All Netflix accounts offer the option to create individual profiles for separate viewers with up to five profiles per account, and a different level of content restriction can be applied to each profile.

Parental Controls also offer varying levels of “maturity” in terms of material and content, so a parent can allow different types of content access for multiple children of different ages. Netflix offers four defined maturity levels: Little Kids, Older Kids, Teens, and Adults. Of course, it’s each parent’s prerogative in this case to decide whether their “older kid” is old enough for material rated PG-13 or TV-14.

But do these controls offer enough protection to keep our kids from finding the stuff we don’t want them to watch? At this time, the control settings are especially easy to navigate, and there’s no way to stop one profile user from using a different profile if they know how to access it. There are no tricks and no passwords currently coded into Netflix’s safety settings.

It’s certainly not out of the question that a slightly precocious “older kid” could work out how to change those content controls without a parent’s permission. And on that note, I can only imagine how quickly a determined teen or pre-teen would figure out how to bypass the Parental Controls into a wealth of violence and overtly sexual content.

All alarming flaws aside, I’m still glad Netflix and other services have made an effort to protect children and families by allowing parents to set restrictions for kids who may want to spend an afternoon watching their favorite shows on Daddy’s iPad. I’m sure improvements will come with time, and until then, us parents will just have to keep a close eye on those after-school cartoon sessions.