My bi-annual rant about Netflix parental controls

Although this is a health policy oriented blog, once in a while we write a post on an off-topic that really attracts people. Some of mine* happen to be about my rants on Netflix parental controls. Don’t believe me? Go search google for “Netflix parental controls” and see if any TIE posts show up. I’m still shocked.

And, still, Netflix has not corrected the problem.

Let me start by saying that I love Netflix streaming. We, as a family, spend far more time watching Netflix than broadcast or cable TV. I’m one of the few people who had no problem when Netflix raised their rates; I would gladly pay more for what I feel is an amazing product. We can watch on our iPad, our iPhones, our Xoom, our Wii, our Xbox 360, our computers, and even our Internet-ready TV.** I may even do a post later this week on some of the great shows I never would have found if it weren’t for Netflix.

But, still, the parental controls suck.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: My kids, like me, are very facile at controlling the technology in our home. My wife, not so much, but she has the kids to help her. When they turn on the Netflix, it instantly confronts them with (1) shows they recently watched and (2) shows Netflix recommends they might like based on (1). But Netflix cannot differentiate between shows that I, as an adult watched, and shows that my children watched. So you get a list up top that includes Good Luck Charlie, The Walking Dead, Shake it up!, MI-5, and Garfield. I won’t even tell you what gets recommended based on that data.

Moreover, there’s no way to stop my kids from accessing the shows I don’t want them to. Sure, I could tell Netflix not to let them watch anything above a PG rating, but then I can’t watch anything above a PG rating. It can take up to 8 hours for changes in the Netflix settings to take effect. I can’t wait that long.

It gets worse. Many shows which are perfectly acceptable for my kids to watch don’t have official ratings associated with them. So they can’t be accessed if I put limits on the shows at all.

If that’s confusing, here, again, is a video which explains this in a more entertaining fashion:

Hey, Netflix! Here’s a suggestion. Let me set a level below which anything will stream. If something that doesn’t qualify is requested, force me to enter a password to allow it. That way, I can watch whatever I like, but my children can’t get nasty stuff without the password (which I will keep from them). I can’t believe this would be so difficult to enact. I’m an extremely loyal customer, and evidently my posts on the issue are some of the most read on the Internet. Fix this, and I will shout it from the rooftops.

Or don’t. But then you can expect me to keep harping on the issue.

* Ask Austin about bed bugs.

** Yes, I have an electronics problem; admitting that is the first step.


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