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An Open Letter to Netflix

Dear Netflix,

We are, and have been for several years now, proud cord cutters. We haven't paid for cable or satellite since 2007, and never plan on paying for either again. Our first major venture into cord cutting was the purchase of a Roku, the original Roku SD. We bought it so that we could watch Netflix's new instant streaming programming on our old tube tv, back when Netflix's online offerings consisted of old westerns and a few kids programs. We have been Netflix customers ever since.  Until recently.

About four months ago, I cancelled our Netflix account, and called customer service to let them know why. As a parent, I felt that there was too much content and too little parental controls available to filter said available content.  Both of my children are old enough now to navigate your service on their own.  Indeed, the Kid's platform has been designed for the ease of use of young children.  This posed a dilemma for our family, however.

While it is helpful to suggest programming based on previous viewing history, often those suggestions were outside the realm of what I, as a parent, felt was appropriate for my children.  Were they inside the set "ratings" limits? Yes.  But I do not trust ratings alone to protect my children from content that I don't want them exposed to.  We tend to chose to avoid gross-out and potty humor, intense situations, and innuendo.  Examples of all of these types of entertainment can be found in the "Little Kids" line-up.  Just because something is rated TV-G, doesn't mean I am OK with my kids watching it.

Even more examples of potty humor and intense situations could be found in the "Big Kids" line-up.  And yet, many of the shows rated Y7, and therefore not available in "Little Kids," were some of my children's favorites. So, we had just tried our best to navigate through the shows that weren't appropriate to try to find those we were okay with.

One problem with this is the lack of a "Watch List" in the Kids setting.  I cannot add shows we approve of to a list and tell my kids they have to stick to that list for watching options.

A second problem with this method is that I cannot always be with my children when they are watching.  On more than one occasion, I would overhear things on the television while cooking dinner that I didn't approve of, and make my boys turn it off. But those things were still in their heads, and still effected their behavior for a few days.

Another issue I have is that it is too easy for a child to access another person's profile.  I may be able to set the limits to "Little Kids," but they can always use Mom and Dad's profile and watch whatever we have our profile set to.  Not only that, but if they have access to Netflix on the computer, they can reset the profile settings on their own profile without requiring password authentication.

The result of these issues is that we decided to just cancel our account.  I know that it is my responsibility as a parent to monitor what my kids watch.  I take full responsibility for that.  Since monitoring our children's Netflix use was becoming problematic, we got rid of the service all together.

We have, instead, been using Amazon Prime, which allows us to set our parental controls to the equivalent of the "Little Kids" level, and then use a password to bypass the parental controls if we feel that a specific show with a higher rating should be allowed. This has made it much easier for me, as a parent, to monitor what my kids are watching.  We can also tell our children that they are only allowed to watch the programming on our Watch List. They are pretty good about sticking to this rule.

But that is not the end of the story.  A few days ago, we decided to try Netflix again.  We set up a completely new account in the hopes that we could start from scratch with our preferences and viewing history in an effort to influence suggested content.

Things had gotten so much worse.

Now, instead of only offering programming designed for children on the "Big Kids" profiles, you also offer programming designed for teens and adults, as long as it has a TV-PG rating.  Some of those shows are even leaching over into "Little Kids" (the TV series Supergirl was reccomended in our "Little Kids" profile).  I also noticed the inclusion of some PG-13 movies in the line-up. While some parents might be alright with their 7-year-old watching Agents of Sheild,  or 13 Going on 30, I am not.  And yet, our kids can't watch Rescue Bots, most of the Lego shows, or other favorites on the "Little Kids" settings.

In short, we are going to be canceling Netflix again.  Originally, I would have been more apt to use Netflix again if better parental controls were in place.  However, now I don't know if I would like to support a company who feels that they have a right to decide what is and isn't appropriate for certain age groups.  After all, when you were using ratings classifications alone, at least it was an understandable standard.  Now it seems that you as a company have taken it upon yourselves to decided that, in some cases, ratings shouldn't be a factor. In effect, you are telling parents that you know what acceptable for their children.  I am disappointed.  And a little bit angry.

A Mom


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