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Your Parental Guide to all Major Streaming Platforms

The festive period is a great time to catch up on classic movies and binge the latest T.V. series – but it’s important that we make sure children and young people stay safe when streaming their favourite shows.

Our Christmas TV watch list used to be dictated by what was on television or what DVDs (or videos) we got from Santa. But now, streaming has taken over. Streaming giants such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix offer us thousands of on-demand TV shows, films and cartoons right when we want it.

Most streaming platforms offer some form of ratings or content descriptors on their shows and movies, as well as differing levels of parental controls to help children and young people use video streaming services safely. We recommend having ongoing conversations about why restricting inappropriate content is a good idea for those in your care.

Protecting the children and young people from more mature content can be difficult. This guide will provide you with all the key information you need to help your family use streaming services safely.

Starting out in 1997, the streaming giant’s usage now accounts for roughly 15% of global internet traffic. They offer thousands of films and TV series and have produced and created Oscar-winning content. Even the word Netflix has become synonymous in the English language to mean watching movies online.

Netflix is available as an App on most Smart TVs, games consoles, phones, tablets and can also be viewed on desktop computers.

In November 2020, Netflix announced that it had classified all its movies and TV shows, using algorithms and technology that was developed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Netflix also now offers an extensive range of parental controls for safe streaming, accessible via a web browser:

  • Users can create separate profiles that have different levels of maturity ratings. The options are U, PG, 12, 15 and 18. Learn more here.

  • You can create a profile for younger children, which will offer a simplified user interface with PG content. For instructions, see here.

  • Parents can also lock accounts intended for older users. To add a PIN code to a Netflix viewing account, see here.

  • To keep an eye on what children and young people in your care are watching on Netflix, you can use the viewing history feature. See here for instructions.

  • We have all had our fair share of Netflix binges, but as we know, too much screen time can have adverse effects on the children and young people in your care. Netflix allows you to turn the auto-play feature off, making it a little easier to get away from the screen. Find out how to configure the auto-play feature here.

Amazon Prime Video launched in 2007, sprouting from the retail giant Amazon.

This video streaming service is purchased with a Prime account and offers thousands of movies and TV shows, intended for a wide range of audiences.

This service is different from Netflix as, although there are many free options, users still have to rent or purchase many films and TV series if they wish to watch them.

Prime Video is available as an App on all Amazon devices, Smart TVs, tablets, laptops and other streaming devices. This platform offers the following parental controls:

  • Parents can restrict certain content for any Amazon device. For instructions, see here.

  • To avoid unauthorised purchases on Amazon Prime, you can set up a parental PIN code. See here for instructions .

  • Set up a Prime Video Kids Profile, which will ensure only content intended for those under 12 is available. Please note that in this account, downloads from other accounts are still accessible. For instructions on setting up a Prime Video Kids profile, see here.

Disney+ is one of the more recent subscription streaming services. The service has been accessible to UK users since March 2020 and provided much enjoyment for many children and young people during the first nationwide lockdown, hosting big name shows such as Star Wars, The Simpsons, and National Geographic.

Disney+ is created specifically for children and young people, and as a result, has a slightly more relaxed approach to parental features.

Disney+ is available as an App on most Smart TVs, games consoles, phones, tablets and can be viewed on desktop computers.

All content has maturity ratings and can go up to 16+. For more information, check out the Disney website here. Disney+ offers the following parental controls:

  • Parents and carers can set up a Kids Profile, which will mean all content is suitable for younger children. To do this, check out instructions here. Please note that even though Disney offers profiles for young children, there is currently no system which stops them from logging in on a different account.

  • To help set healthy screen time habits for children and young people in your care, you can turn off auto-play. Follow these instructions.

Apple TV+ is the paid-for subscription service for online streaming content, developed by Apple. The platform has grown in popularity in recent years due to a range of original content, including movies and TV shows.

This platform is available as an app on most Smart TVs, games consoles, phones, tablets and can be viewed on desktop computers.
Similar to Prime, Apple TV+ has content included in the subscription price and other TV shows and films which you must pay to rent or purchase. Users can also pay to subscribe to different channels.

As with all streaming services, Apple TV+ offers a wide range of content which has various maturity ratings, as well as ample opportunity to spend money. See below for the platform’s parental controls:

  • Parents and carers can use Apple TV+’s restrictions feature, which will allow them to restrict certain content and in-app purchasing. Content will only be accessible by using a PIN code. Learn more here.

Sky Q is not only an extensive range of additional TV channels. It also offers users the widest selection of on-demand 4K content, including titles from Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.

Users can adjust their package to include content from film, sport, TV shows or children’s shows. There is also a Sky Store where users can rent or purchase other options not included in the subscription service.
Users can watch Sky on their Smart TVs, via a SkyBox, or via the Sky Go App on a phone, tablet, games console or computer.

Sky has gone a little further in helping children and young people safely stream by developing a new parents guide, in conjunction with Common Sense Media. The parent’s guide gives content a rating of 1 – 5 against eight themes:

  • Positive messages
  • Positive role models
  • Violence and scariness
  • Sex
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drink, drugs and smoking
  • Educational

Sky Q also offers extensive parental controls, which we have highlighted below:

  • Users can create PIN codes which will restrict access to certain shows and prevent unauthorised purchases.

  • Sky offers parents and carers ‘Kids Safe Mode’, which only has content rated U.

  • Parents and carers can hide adult channels.

  • Add a PIN for access to the Sky Go App.

  • All trailers have ratings as per BBFC specifications.

  • For assistance with parental controls on Sky, see here.

NOW TV (also owned by Sky) is a subscription service which offers access to Sky’s on-demand content, without the addition of Sky TV or a satellite dish. NOW TV offers different content, depending on what ‘pass’ you have purchased. There are passes for Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and much more. Users of Now TV can also get access to some channels not included with Freeview.

This platform is available on most smart TVs. It is also available on gaming consoles, phones, tablets and can be viewed on desktop computers. If you have NOW TV’s broadband, you can take advantage of their ‘Broadband Buddy’, a system developed to protect children and young people from online harms.

NOW TV offers the following parental controls:

  • You can filter content in line with a specific maturity level. For instructions, see here

  • Users can set up a parental PIN which will be required for mature content and making In-App purchases. For instructions, see here

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