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Setting up parental controls on Netflix

Childnet, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, looks at parental controls on the hugely popular streaming site Netflix.

On demand television services are hugely popular among young people and adults alike. Ofcom’s latest report on children’s media use found that in 2018 half of 5-15s had watched services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV.

With over 5,052 TV shows, documentaries and movies currently on Netflix in the UK, there is a lot of great content that young people can use to learn from, engage with or to relax whilst watching. The sheer number of titles on Netflix does however mean that there is some content that is not appropriate for all users to watch, with some films and TV shows age rated as 15 or 18.  In this blog we look at what parental controls are available on Netflix and how you can work with your family to implement the tools that work for you.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls are designed to help protect children from inappropriate content they may come across online. These controls can be used to restrict access to age-inappropriate content, to set usage times and to monitor activity. On Netflix specifically, parental controls are available to restrict what young people are able to watch.

It’s worth being aware that no parental controls or filtering options are 100% effective. As children grow up, they can become quite tech-savvy and this could mean that they learn how to disable or by-pass parental controls.

With parental controls, it’s important to remember to keep your password private from your children – sharing it may mean they can turn off or modify the parental settings which you have put in place.

Once you have set up the parental controls that work for you and your family, it is important to keep an eye on these as settings can be affected by software updates or new and improved settings may become available.

Setting controls on Netflix at account level

You can set parental controls on Netflix which will apply to all of the profiles on your account. These controls will mean that a 4-digit PIN-code is needed to access any content over a set maturity level (see maturity ratings below).

When setting up this PIN, you need to select the maturity level you wish to set it for. This maturity level will apply to all profiles under the main Netflix account. This means that you cannot differentiate the maturity level for each user on the account. So if you have children of different ages, each child will have the same level of access. How to set this up:

  1. Access your Account page from a web browser.
  2. Select the link for Parental controls in the Settings section.
  3. Enter your Netflix account password on the screen.
  4. Enter four numbers into the PIN - this will be your PIN.
  5. Set your PIN protection level from the following options, this will be the oldest age they will be able to watch without a pin (For definitions of the PIN protection levels, view Netflix’s s guidance on maturity ratings):
    - Little Kids - U, Safe for Kids
    - Older Kids - PG
    - Teens - 12+
    - Mature - 15+, 18+, Mature, Adult
  6. Select Save.

Once you have set up these account level settings, you will be asked to enter the PIN whenever someone on your account attempts to play a title above your PIN protection level.

The PIN does not stop who will still be able to see the titles and preview images and descriptions that may appear when navigating through Netflix. Some of these images may contain gore or be scary for younger users.

It’s important to note that once a PIN is entered, you will not need to enter it again until you sign out, switch profiles, or do not interact with Netflix for a period of time. It’s also worth noting that account level settings will be the same across any devices your family uses to access the same Netflix account – for instance your laptop, TV, or games console.

Require a PIN for specific TV shows or movies

You can also set controls that require you to enter a PIN to watch specific shows or movies – this is referred to as a PIN-protected title on Netflix. This can be useful for families who want to block their child from viewing a particular show or movie which is not appropriate for them.

With these settings you choose a 4-digit PIN that must be entered to play a specific TV series or movie, on any profile. The PIN blocks that particular show so your child cannot watch it.

How to do this:

  1. Access your Account page from a web browser.
  2. Select the link for Parental controls in the Settings section.
  3. Enter your Netflix account password on the screen.
  4. Enter four numbers into the PIN field (no letters) - this will be your PIN.
  5. Set PIN protection for a specific title by typing the title in the enter show or movie name box and clicking on the title when it appears.
  6. Select Save.

Once your PIN is set up you will be asked to enter your PIN any time you attempt to play a PIN-protected title. If you want to remove a title from your blocked list then you need to repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 to access your Parental Control settings and select the X next to the title.

Further things you can do

Have an ongoing conversation

Parental controls can be helpful, but they are not a replacement for ongoing discussion and involvement with your child’s online life. Watch shows together, talk about their favourite things to watch and play a part in your child’s decision making process when they want to start a new series.

Before you implement or change your parental control settings have a conversation with your children, talk about why you are doing this and what it means for their internet use and use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the way they spend their time online and the things they may see online.

When it comes to parental controls it’s important to strike a balance that woks for your whole family, by having these conversations you can help make sure that your whole family work together to get the most out of the online world.

We have some conversation starters to help you to start this discussion with your child.

Make a Family Agreement

Consider making a Family Agreement. This is a great way to start a conversation with your whole family about how you all use the internet and to discuss how to behave online in a positive way. If Netflix is popular in your family, you could include a specific section in your agreement to talk about it.

See what other parents are saying

If you have questions about a specific movie or show on Netflix, you can see what other parents and young people are saying about it - as well as see content flags to be aware of - on Common Sense Media.