This past Christmas I gifted my girls smartphones and they each got their own Kindle Fire. They are 9. They are good girls, and they deserve them. During my time setting up the devices, etc. I tried out quite a few parental controls. On SocialMoms.com I posted recently about some things that you need to remember when you gift a device to your child. After some turmoil I got the phones locked down just right. The Kindle Fires are done, but not perfectly.
As parents we worry about a lot. We worry about health, sickness, what our kids are eating, and we worry about what they are exposed to on television. This is now complicated by the array of devices and streaming media services available to families. While this technology makes our lives easier, and more entertained, it can also cause some issues that we may not want to deal with, or should I say that we are not yet ready to deal with as parents…. the subject of inappropriate content.
Kids can come across inappropriate content innocently and completely by accident. And as kids get older and go to school they start to listen to their friends. These friends sometimes tell them things that stay on their mind. Or, children may overhear adults talking. You know they are always listening! Kids are smart… and sneaky! Even when they think we they are not listening, they usually are. And tech savvy kids know how to use the internet. They know full well how to search Google. And if their computers are not locked down these searches might lead to stories, or worse… images that little eyes do not need to see. This can easily be prevented by installing parental controls.
One thing that I found out during my poking around is that parental controls for the popular streaming services suck!! And, having parental controls installed on the device does not cover Netflix or Hulu Plus.
Netflix is the most popular service for streaming movies to families. And while they advertise the “Just for Kids” hub, it is not available on all devices. Whether or not that option shows up depends on the device software. Also, kids can just regular Netflix if they want. There is no way to lock a streaming device to show only the Just for Kids option. Netflix allows you to setup a max of 50 devices on one account. That is a lot of devices! Out of those 50 devices you can stream a movie to only 2 devices at once. While this does help the fight over the TV with families, it could do better. It is awesome when my kids want to watch Phineas and Ferb and I go to my office and watch a movie while working. The problem with Netflix is that the parental controls suck. There is basically an all or nothing option. There is one blanket setting for the account. In other words you can block your Netflix account from showing R rated content, however this means that you cannot watch it either.
Right now the only real option is to sign up for more than one Netflix account, one for the adults in the house and one for the kids. And this is messy. This would mean that you would have to log out of your Netflix account from shared household media players like your TV, Roku or XBox after every time you watch a movie. Or you would have to log into your Netflix account and change the setting each time. And the change can take up to 24 hours. This would be a major pain.
When searching for parental controls on Hulu Plus, which is the paid version of Hulu allowing streaming to media players and mobile devices, we are presenting with this bit of info:
Users are required to be logged into an account and be at least 17 years of age in order to view mature content (films rated R, TV-MA shows) on Hulu. At this time, we do not have a setting that allows for more customized parental controls. The best suggestion we can offer is to log out of your Hulu account while watching with younger children; this will block mature content. You can also visit our Family or Kids page to browse for content that you and your family can watch together.
For Hulu Plus subscribers, you will have access Hulu Kids. This hub allows a safe, ad-free viewing experience for your child. To access Hulu Kids, please head to ( www.hulu.com/kids ). For additional information, please visit our Hulu Kids Help Article.
Additionally, we can change the birth year on your account to under 17 years old – This will block mature content while allowing you to watch Hulu Plus videos. To update your birth year, contact Hulu Support.
Well that is just not useful. So, that means once again the adults and the kids would have to have separate accounts, which means double the cost. The kids hub is available on the PS3 and Android devices, but again… kids have to actually click on it.
I would love to see a way to granularly setup the parental controls on computers or devices that use both of these services.
Amazon Prime Instant Videos
I am happy to report that Amazon Prime has really awesome parental controls. You can set it to cover devices that your children use, TVs, or the web. You can also setup a PIN number to access content on the web. Locked content will then appear on the device with a LOCK icon which alerts the user that the content is blocked.
As in my house, my girls have their own Kindle Fire, so I can lock down their devices and nothing more. It works out great. Although, the Kindle Parental controls leave much to be desired… but that is another post.
What streaming media do your kids have access to at home? How do you make sure that they do not come in contact with inappropriate content?