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Netflix Parental Controls: Everything a Parent Should Know

Words by
Jake Cutler

MAR 07, 2023

Netflix Parental Controls: Everything a Parent Should Know

Streaming has revolutionized how we all consume entertainment. Now we don’t have to plan our evenings around our favorite shows or fight for limited DVR space with everyone else in the house. With today’s growing selection of streaming services, we can access just about anything at any time and from anywhere.

Obviously that comes with upsides but, as parents, it’s important to remember there are always downsides too. Especially when it comes to keeping kids safe.

Dangers of Netflix

The good news is that the primary risk children face when it comes to Netflix (inappropriate content) can be pretty effectively negated with the right controls in place. Before we get into those controls, it’s helpful to know just what we’re up against as parents:

1. Access to inappropriate content

This is the primary risk parents associate with the streaming service. In 2018, a Movieguide report found that only 1% of Netflix’s original content library was G-rated, while 61% was rated TV-MA.

It’s true that Netflix has made a big push to increase the number of child-friendly shows and movies since 2018 but clearly there is still a lot of content available on the streaming service that isn’t appropriate for your kids, depending on their maturity level.

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2. Excessive screen time

Netflix may not be the platform demanding the most attention from kids today (TikTok and YouTube lead the pack there) but at 45 minutes per day, that means kids are spending an equivalent to 11 full days out of the year watching Netflix on average. You can decide what the right amount of entertainment is for your child, of course, but the potential for excessive Netflix screen time is certainly a possibility.

3.  Social features

To be clear, this one only applies to Netflix Games and not the traditional streaming arm most of us think of with Netflix.

Netflix joined the gaming frenzy in late 2021 and now offers a library of mobile games (not available on TV apps or through a web browser) that are free and exclusive to Netflix subscribers. They have made it clear that none of their games allow for in-app purchases but some of these games include social features, which opens the door to risks like grooming

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How Parental Controls Helps Kids Stay Safe on Netflix

Netflix does allow you to set up parental controls that can significantly limit the risk of those dangers. As a parent, you know your children best and also have specific preferences on the things you do and don’t want them exposed to.

Understanding the parental control options available will allow you tailor your child’s Netflix experience in a way you’re more comfortable with. Here’s a quick overview:

1. Creating profiles for each family member

This allows parents to customize settings for each person in the family. Netflix allows for up to five profiles on a single account and any of those profiles can be set as “Netflix Kids” profiles, which means they’ll have a simplified look and feel, remove direct access to account settings, won’t allow Netflix Games, and only allow TV shows and movies for kids.

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2. Setting specific age restrictions for each profile

Once created, you can manage profiles to specify ratings for movies and TV-shows that you would like your children to be able to watch (say, for example, only allowing shows or movies with a “PG” rating). There are also title restrictions if you want to block specific shows or movies.

3. Setting up PIN codes for each profile

The specific restrictions on a child’s profile won’t do much if your kid can simply choose to view Netflix through your (or an older sibling’s) profile. So you’ll also want to set up PIN codes for any profiles that allow content that may be inappropriate for the least mature member of the household.

4. Turning autoplay off

By default, Netflix will automatically play the trailer to a movie or show if you hover over it. It will also play trailers to related shows or movies after you’ve finished one. This shouldn’t be an issue within a kid’s profile because the restrictions you set should eliminate the risk of inappropriate trailers. But there might be times where you are viewing something as a family on your own profile and age-inappropriate content could be seen by kids if this feature is on.

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An additional autoplay feature within Netflix could be problematic for children as well. Netflix will automatically play the next episode in a series unless that feature is turned off. The risk to children with this one is too much screen time because Netflix has more than enough content to autoplay all day long.

5. Accessing viewing history for a profile

Netflix allows you to see the TV shows and movies that have been watched on each profile on your account. Reviewing the viewing history occasionally could be a helpful safeguard if you’re concerned your child may have watched something inappropriate. 

Viewing the history on your own profile could also be helpful if you suspect a child has cracked your PIN code and used your profile to access content unavailable on their own profile. Trust between a parent and child is a far more powerful safeguard than any safety settings so be sure not to use this feature as a “gotcha” tactic or in any way that might damage that trusting relationship with your child.

Too Big to Ignore

By the beginning of 2022, 85% of American households had at least one video streaming subscription. While there seems to be a new streaming service launched every month, Netflix is still considered the industry leader. And kids are doing much of the streaming.

Netflix-subscribed households with kids now watch an average of 20 more minutes of content per day than households without kids. The impact of all those minutes depends largely on what kind of content is being consumed so familiarity with Netflix’s parental controls can go a long way in ensuring the pros of streaming technology don’t come laced with some pretty dangerous cons.

If you don’t want your child to have Netflix on their personal device, check out the ultimate parental control phone, Gabb Phone Plus.

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