A Plea To Netflix About Parental Controls

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Netflix is raising their prices. Technically they are splitting their plans: One DVD at home for $7.99 and/or Instant Streaming for $7.99. I know the world has been pooping their pants over this for a week, but really? That price hike is less than the cost of one movie in the theater. If the extra income makes Netflix WORK better, I am happy to pay.


Netflix just brought streaming to the Nintendo 3DS. Awesome. We set Declan up, and he can watch Phineus and Ferb without bugging us for the iPad. Double awesome.

Except for when the neighbor noticed him watching Step Up 3, a PG-13 movie. She asked him if *I* knew he was watching that. Embarrassed, he turned it off.

Generally Declan is good at self-censoring himself when watching entertainment via Netflix. We check in with him, talk about things, etc. We hadn’t been too harsh about parental controls because you know what?

They are a pain in the ass.

Everyone flippantly says, “Oh! Just turn on parental controls!”

It’s not that easy. Half the time your child can’t do the things he wants to. Or you can’t do the things you need to. Or you get errors. Or you have no idea what you are turning off and on.

Example: Netflix.

Yes, you can make a separate profile for your child.

Awesome. Check. Did that.

You can tell it to only allow your child to watch G-rated movies.

Awesome. Check. Did that.

You can flip back and forth between your profile and get to the kid’s profile.

Awesome. Check. Did that.

But when you enter your kid’s profile for the first time… AFTER you have told it to only allow G movies, Netflix wants to know what kind of moves he likes. I click Family, Comedy, and TV – and unclick everything else. Then Netflix asks my 8 year old’s profile to rate some movies to help them recommend other movies he might like.

Movies such as… The Hangover. American Pie. Knocked Up – The Unrated Version.

I am not joking.

I wish I was.

Awesome. (Not.)

Then I go to fill his queue with the silly cartoons he likes and realize there is no way to do that for streaming, because WOW.


Double. Not. Awesome.

Please. Can anyone answer me?

Because this is the real point of this post: How can I stop my child from watching garbage like Step Up 3?

This article has 20 comments

  1. mackenzie

    I had the exact same problem when we got my stepdaughter set up with netflix on the Wii. Husband and I also want to stream movies on our xbox in the bedroom but we can’t have separate parental controls. I looked all over the internet for a solution and I couldn’t find anything.
    Plus it takes something like 8 hours for parental control changes to take affect!!! I had set our account to G only but it excluded one of her favorite movies. We had to change the parental controls then wait a whole day for it to show up on the Wii again. Lame D:

  2. piper of love

    I had to put a passcode on Netflix for our Wii. It’s the only way I could figure out how to have parental control. It’s a pain, but it’s better than letting them see the random filth that shows up in recommendations.

    I hope Netflix gets a clue fast, especially now that they’re raising the price again.

  3. Anonymous

    SOOOOO TRUE! Netflix please fix this!

  4. Leighann

    I have the same exact issue. I have a 2 DVD account do I have separate queues for kids movies & grown up movies.

    But we mostly watch instant streaming & they throw all the movies together.

    I came into the room one day and my 6yo said “I dint think it’s a good idea for someone to bring people back from the dead.” She was watching Pushing Daisies which has benign looking cover art.

    Netflix NEEDS to find a solution to this since even my 4yo knows how to pull up Netflix on my iPhone and iPad. If they are going to raise prices, then they need to raise their service including this important concern that I hear many parents voicing.

    My children should NOT have access to mature content and Netflix needs to find a way to give them a separate instant queue.

  5. Kim Hosey

    Ugh; AMEN! We have this exact issue. He actually doesn’t usually like to look at/for inappropriate movies, so it’s not a huge issue … for now. And accidental discoveries always lead to much (MUCH) discussion. The last conversation led my husband and I to tell him, a little too loudly, that “It’s an ADULT MOVIE, so never mind! It’s only for us to watch.” We meant Inception, but I don’t think the 247 people in Fry’s who overheard us realized that.

    And now he wants to know what Intervention is all about. Which popped up when he was going to watch X-Men: Evolution. Because those match.

  6. Julie Marsh

    I found Oliver watching South Park. I wish I were kidding. (He’s 3, for those who don’t know me.)

    I’m okay with the price hike. I just wish more cool stuff was available to watch, in addition to a far more intelligent controls and recommendations system.

  7. Anonymous

    Kids should be allowed to have choices.
    A. you can make good choices
    B. you can make poor choices

    You seem to have above par parenting skills, from what I have read. This opens the door for more face time and why it is important to make good choices. The movie was horrible, was it not? I bet you will never want to see that again.

    I firmly believe Netflix is there to help families communicate more, rather than let each family member go into their own private viewing rooms and not bond, not talk, not eat dinner at the dinner table.

  8. Nat

    I didn’t know we could set up profiles or that Netflix had parental controls. For that matter I didn’t know my Wii did. Who knew?

    We are very liberal with what we let The Boy watch. It’s part that there are only so many insipid G-movies anyone can take, but also because I think sometimes things can lead to really good conversation. One of the Boy’s favourite films was about the first African- American debate team. It’s a PG-13, and he watched it twice. It’s lead to some interesting lessons on race, prejudice and many other things. As did the episodes of Life on Mars on sexism…

    As for what’s wrong with Pushing Daisies, I guess I’ll never know. ūüėČ

    But I do agree, if they have parental controls. Then yes, they should work.

  9. JoAnn

    I love, love, LOVE Netflix. We’ve been with them since 2003, and to be honest, the “new” pricing is already cheaper than what it was when we started, way back when “streaming” didn’t exist (and we didn’t even blink an eye…the economics were a no-brainer for us). Because we were switching to the 1DVD plan (+streaming) anyway, we won’t notice a change in our budget at all.

    Anyway…I haven’t even thought about parental controls…yet. Right now, we set up movies for Claire (5yo) to see, and we’re involved in the process, at least partially, if we don’t watch the movies with her.

    I guess the only saving grace right now is that you have access to a list of everything that has been watched. Is that enough to deter a kid from watching something he/she shouldn’t? Some yes, some no.

    I hope they address your concerns soon!

  10. ray

    I hate this and feel the same way. I need my son to have a profile with streaming. But I don’t think netflix has a reason (yet) to do this. We all still keep paying them, even with the price change, and that’s all that matters. This will only be fixed when they get good a competitor that we might actually switch to.

  11. Salt in Suburbia

    Just found your post and I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!!! I have seven year old twins and a five year old. Can I say I am sick of He-man and She-ra and would love to block them for awhile? Thanks for posting.

  12. Anonymous

    For an example of the insanity of Netflix parental controls check out this you tube video. http://youtu.be/-bDhcfdhbus

  13. Gregg

    my kid was looking for Barney and the first entry was beer something – like a frat party beer movie. So I go looking for parental controls – ok PG – lets try that.

    Now in Genre’s, title are blocked, but go back to the front page – all is normal. Yay – not..

    So create a profile – logout/login on iphone (fully updated iphone4) and does not login with profile.

    Great.. its useless..

    So for now, logged out the netflix on the ithings. We’ll let the kids watch OTA TV or study or read or play with matter..

    We’ll login, watch Eureka (current obcession) and log out when done.

  14. Anonymous

    Same problem here. One way to stop intentional watching of “questionable” shows is to let your child know that you can see a list of all of the movies that they watched.

    Also, we instituted a rule that the kids have to ask for approval for any show they watch. If they don’t have approval then they know they should not click on it.

    I think it is a good early lesson in online living. Yes son, you could click on that link, but someone, somewhere knows what you are doing. Don’t expect privacy on the internet.

  15. Paula

    Truly the problem just gets worst when you have a 17 year old whose friends give him/her tips on how to do this and that, at this age anything your parents say is the opposite of what you want to do. My kid since he works opened up his own account and lied about his age. Pls tell me what can I do to stop this madness?

  16. Anonymous

    Who ever wrote this is extremely over protective… feel very bad for the kid. I was watching PG-13 movies at 8 or so and I turned out just fine…. -_-;

    PS, I’m 22 now.

  17. Vickie Westcott

    My daughter is 3 about to be 4. She has a 3DS and I would love to put netflix on it for her so she can watch her shows on it whenever she likes, but as it stands now I won’t. Because you see my boyfriend watches a lot of raunchy comedies and it shows up in the first line of movies when you open netflix. My daughter being 3, while she knows how to work netflix and all, some of the cover images on these movies are fairly harmless and/or cartoony and that’s what she would look for. I have been seriously hoping for profiles to come to netflix because I think it’s absurd to pay for a whole other netflix account for her to watch her stuff on her device and my boyfriend be able to watch his.

  18. Anonymous

    Dear Netflix,
    Please allow us to create family profiles where the owner (parent) of the account can set the type of access (possibly up to 4) to view the responsible content for the child profiles. Similarly how Microsoft handles xbox family profiles

    This should be Netflix first priority.

  19. Mike


    Hopefully these actually work. I still want to be able to share devices with my kids (i.e. family room connected bluray) and access multiple profiles. Obviously they shouldn’t be able to switch profiles easily.

  20. Mike


    Hopefully these actually work. I still want to be able to share devices with my kids (i.e. family room connected bluray) and access multiple profiles. Obviously they shouldn’t be able to switch profiles easily.

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