Netflix has a parental control issue. You can create «Kid» profiles, but kids can easily avoid them. You can set a PIN to block content, but Netflix still bombards kids with mature trailers. Netflix parental controls should be better.
Child profiles are not parental controls
The fact that Netflix is so easy to share with friends and family is fantastic. Everyone can have an individual profile (you can have up to five on your account), which means your offers won’t include Magic School Bus or StoryBots .
And making your young children with a childish profile should keep them from seeing mature shows.Must but won’t. Unfortunately, with the current Netflix system, your child can switch to your profile any time they want. That’s why Netflix calls it «soft management».
Netflix does not block children on its profiles. So, if your child has already figured out how to switch profiles, he can easily switch from his to yours. The only thing that stops him is the realization that he can get into someone else’s profile, and that he should not do this. «Parental security» based on the innocence and honesty of the child is not security at all.
What do you do when your kids switch profiles and check out content you don’t want them to watch? Unfortunately, you can’t hide them from your profile right now. The only thing you can do is set a PIN so they can’t play the Rated R movie Netflix added last week. But even this is problematic, because the PIN system is illogical and does not block everything.
PIN codes are illogical
The real parental control feature is the PIN system, which Netflix calls «hard controls.» If you’ve set up a PIN on your account, you can set Netflix to require it before playing content on any profile.
You access the Netflix parental control PIN system from your account settings. Any change you make applies to each profile. The first problem, however, is that the PIN code system is illogical.
To access parental controls, you must go to the Netflix website. You cannot access it from an iPad, smartphone, or any other device. If you try, the app will point you to the site.
When accessing parental controls, the first step is to provide a four-digit PIN. Choose this carefully, as you must pass it on to friends or family members who use your Netflix account. If you don’t feel comfortable handing out your debit card PIN, don’t use it.
The green bar in the Parental Control settings indicates rating levels that do not require a PIN to access. If you move the bar all the way to the right, it’s not correct. If the green bar is full, parental controls are disabled. Luckily, you can also specify specific shows to block.
It’s also not always clear when you need to use a PIN. According to Netflix, once you allow a show to play, you won’t need to enter your PIN again until either the rating changes on the next episode, or you log out, switch profiles, or are active «enough long» (Netflix doesn’t specify exactly how long «enough» is).
So just because your child keeps watching the same show doesn’t mean you won’t need to enter your PIN again. You may have to if a new episode is rated higher than the previous one.
PIN codes don’t get in the way of mature trailers
It’s only a matter of time before your kids get curious and switch to your profile. Unfortunately, what they can see is out of your control. Netflix advertises various shows at the top of the page in almost every app. The advertisement usually includes a video trailer. Scroll down and you’ll often find additional trailers.
While setting a PIN stops any other trailer from playing, it doesn’t stop Netflix ads. They are released and you cannot stop them. Look at the image above from the trailer Stranger Things . It all starts innocently enough: the boy returns home, and his toy robots begin to leave the room. These are the things that can attract the attention of a small child. Soon «strange things» appear, such as the monstrous horror in the image above, which will frighten any small child.
«Stranger Things» is indeed the best script as it has a TV-14 rating. Netflix hosts and creates TV shows and movies rated TV-Mature and R. These ads sometimes feature these shows.
Even if by chance every preview is kid-friendly, Netflix still shows images for every show you can watch. This sometimes includes flashy images from mature shows that you may not want your kids to see. And again — you can’t turn them off, you can’t lock them with a PIN, and you can’t prevent your child from opening an «adult» profile.
PIN codes only work for families with one child
If you have more than one child, parental controls will prove cumbersome. If you have children who are three or four years apart, what you allow your older child to watch may be very different from what you want your younger child to watch. But Netflix doesn’t allow any distinction. When you set a maturity level, it applies to each profile.
You can block anything you don’t want your youngest to see and enter your PIN regularly for your older child. Or you can unblock anything you allow your older child to watch, which unblocks that content for your other children as well.
You could give your pin to your older child, but that gives them access to everything — even mature content. Unfortunately, these cumbersome options only work well for families with one child.
Netflix should add restricted PIN profiles
All these problems can be solved with a single solution. Instead of one PIN for the entire account and a maturity rating that affects all profiles, Netflix must enter profile-level options and PINs.
Currently, access to parental controls requires you to provide an account password. It’s great and should stay as it is. After logging into the parental control app, Netflix should give you the option to apply maturity ratings on a per-profile basis. Little John is 5 years old, so you can set his «little kid» profile. Susie has just turned 15, so her profile could be transitioning to ‘teenager’.
To prevent children from switching to profiles that don’t belong to them, Netflix should expand the existing PIN system to include multiple PINs for profiles. Anyone who is set to a childish profile with a low maturity rating does not need a PIN. But you can optionally give your teen a PIN to prevent younger siblings from gaining access. And each adult profile can have its own PIN.
To override your repayment settings, you can use an approved adult PIN. The current rules regarding re-entering a PIN after a rating change will still apply.
By moving from account-level controls to profile-level controls, Netflix will replace a dull hammer with a scalpel. The company should let you decide who is ready for what without making the process a lesson in frustration.