If you are a parent, you either have already dealt with the issue of safeguarding your child from inappropriate content, or you will after receiving a rude awakening, when your child stumbles upon something that important prematurely takes away their innocence. As parents, we are becoming accustomed to dealing with parental control settings on our internet connection and our cable or satellite TV subscription. But streaming is a whole new issue that we may not have a lot of information on. The streaming providers below have been researched in-depth in order to determine their "family friendly" rating.
Of course the best parental control available are parents themselves, and this review is a good reminder that we need to be personally involved in the lives of our children and monitor their choices. We need to manage the exposure our children receive from uncertain venues such as the internet, including social networking, as well as television and cell phones, in an age-appropriate fashion. However, as busy parents can attest to, it certainly is helpful to get help from the trusted services we subscribe to.
This streaming provider has decided not to get into the pornography business, so it gets an immediate thumbs-up for this decision. It does include a rudimentary parental control option. In your account, you can select "change parental control settings" and select what ratings level to filter. It does take 8 hours for the new rating selection to take effect, so parents need to stay vigilant during that time frame. This is a global block to the entire account, so if you decide to indulge in a movie, there is an 8 hour window where your kids can access the same ratings you do. There is also the ability to see what anyone on the account has viewed, so you are able to "ask questions" after the fact.
However, several parents have lit up the message boards requesting more flexibility in the ability to filter content, especially based on individual devices or sub-accounts. In other words, the family TV needs to be sacred (whether it's the Roku box, gaming console or internet-enabled Blu-ray player that facilitates the streaming), and so does Jr's iPad. Another idea was to be able to filter out all content within certain ratings unless a pin # was entered. There are some films that are "Not Rated" that are clearly inappropriate for children.
Netflix allows it's community to rate and review the movies in its library, which is also a plus.
Netflix family friendly rating is "good".
This provider does not have customizable parental controls. However, in order to view "mature" Hulu content (rated R or TV-MA), the owner of the account must be at least 17 years old, and the viewer must be logged into the account to access mature content. This is an account that, simply put, requires parental oversight. It should be noted that internet-savvy children can get around this to create an account. For family friendliness, it is rated "good" with the caveat that the parent must be involved with viewing choices.
This provider has two safeguards in place that rate it "great" in terms of family friendly. Parents are able to set limits on what their children can browse, rent, purchase or play, based upon ratings. They also provide good instruction on how to set parental controls on various devices. Once purchased by WalMart, Vudu has discontinued "Vudu After Dark."
This provider also receives a "great" rating in terms of child safety. Parents are able to define content that is even displayed in the iTunes Store for their children. You can also opt to disable content available in podcasts, radio, shared libraries, or the iTunes Store. If a user tries to access content that is not in the allowable category, a pin number must be entered. Because content is rented or purchased through the iTunes store, this adds an extra layer of safety. For Apple TV owners, you can also set controls for services like Netflix or YouTube.
Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Prime
In order to rent or purchase digital media, you must have access to an Amazon account with a credit card. Parents also have an entire history of anything rented or purchased. This is the ultimate of parental controls, albeit after the fact. The problem comes with Amazon Prime members who have access to the unlimited streaming library. The Amazon message boards state that they have no solution to block streamed content that is inappropriate to children. Family friendly rating – "fair".
Roku is not a streaming provider, but a streaming media player. As such, it is as the mercy of whatever provider you select for your entertainment. However, you can create a 4-digit Roku Channel Store PIN that restricts new channels being added to your Roku Player. Family friendly rating is "good".