Streaming services like Netflix understand that more than one family member is often watching content in the house. Those family members can have very different interests. While this often comes down to a matter of taste–like when you and your spouse find different comedies funny–younger children often also use the same Netflix account as their parents. While a child might be old enough to be trusted with the Netflix account without constant supervision, there’s enough on Netflix that children of certain ages should avoid that it’s not hard to imagine them stumbling on it by accident. Breaking Bad might be a great television show, but that doesn’t mean your 8 year old should be watching the downfall of Walter White when you’re not home.
While you can’t block specific television shows on Netflix yet, you can set up parameters and parental controls from your personal account, limiting what different users can see. This lets you keep watching all the action, horror, and steamy romances you want on your account, without worrying about the kids in your house watching the same stuff on their own. Let’s look at how to set up parental controls inside Netflix’s account settings.
Applying Parental Controls to All Profiles (Recommended)
There’s something to be said about setting parental controls to all the profiles on your account. Unlike setting profile-specific controls, giving every account the same level of content control means each profile has identical restrictions. This way anyone who can access any content on the service has to enter the four-digit passcode to access mature content. Anyone without the code (like, presumably, your children) will be locked out of specifically-rated content. A four-digit code is easy to remember and share, but hard enough to guess that your child won’t be able to force their way in when you aren’t around. You can change the code at any time, making it easy to protect your children from violent media they’re trying to access.
This may sound inconvenient, but it will also halt your child from accessing mature content from profiles that aren’t their own. You can leave Netflix logged into your account, or lend one of your devices to one of your kids, without worrying about whether you’ve given them access to the wrong account. It’s that level of security that makes this our recommended method, though we do understand every family is different, and for some folks, having to constantly use a four-digit PIN to access mature content may be frustrating.
To set up account-wide controls, you will want to follow these steps:
- Start by opening Netflix on your computer. You’ll have to do this from a browser, not from a smart TV or set-top box.
- When Netflix loads into the profile selection screen, select any of the profiles associated with your account from the opening display. Since you’re setting parental controls to all accounts on the system, it doesn’t matter which one you use to set it up.
- Once that profile’s home screen has loaded, locate the name of the profile in the top-right corner of the display. Click on the name of your profile to access the drop-down menu inside of Netflix. This menu allows for you to change profiles within your account, as well as access your profile settings and watch history.
- Tap on Account to continue into the settings for your current profile.
- Once you’ve accessed your account settings, find the “Parental Controls” listing inside your Netflix settings. Select that.
- Netflix will prompt your for your account password, the same password you use to log into the system.
- Once you’ve entered that password, you’ll find the parental controls menu, which lists an entry for your four-digit PIN, along with a slider allowing you to control the content played by accounts on the service. This menu will place controls on every profile on your service.
- Use the slider control to place restriction on specifically rated content. Netflix breaks their parental controls down into four different levels.
- Little Kids: This category includes G-rated films like Finding Nemo or Toy Story, along with TV-Y and TV-G content from broadcasters. TV-Y typically covers children from the ages of two to six, whereas TV-G covers general audiences without an age range. Setting the slider here will block the majority of content, including PG-rated films like Lilo and Stitch and The Incredibles. This definitely constitutes the most control of the categories, and it’s an easy way to prevent your youngest family members from viewing potentially upsetting content.
- Older Kids: Once your children begin to enter the later grades of elementary school, you might want to bump them up to this section. This category includes all the content from Little Kids, plus PG-rated films (like Minions or Despicable Me) and TV-Y7 and Y7-FV content. TV-Y7 is content designed for children ages seven and up, while TV-Y7-FV contains fantasy violence, often some type of action or fighting. Ben 10 and Pokemon are examples of the TV-Y7-FV rating.
- Teens: When your child starts getting close to the end of middle school, you can open them up to new content. Setting the slider to Teens allows your profiles to access all of the aforementioned content from Little and Older Kids, along with the addition of PG-13 and TV-14 content. Most films released these days are rated PG-13, including all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These films might be fit for younger eyes, but PG-13 can also include raunchy comedies or other content that may be questionable for certain demographics. Shows like Mad Men and Better Call Saul both content violence and sex, but are rated TV-14.
- Adults: Allowing content up to the Adult section will remove parental controls completely. This means that all R-rated, Not Rated, Unrated, and NC-17 films available on Netflix become available to anyone’s profile, as well as TV-MA content like The Walking Dead and Orange is the New Black.
- Finally, it’s worth noting that setting your slider below Little Kids will require a PIN to be entered before watching any Netflix content. This is useful if you want to approve what your kid watches on a case-by-case basis, or just don’t want them vegging out in front of Netflix without your permission.
- If you aren’t sure whether or not you’ve set the slider correctly, check the status of your parental controls above the slider. It should read, “Content for ___ protected by PIN.” For example, if your children are 8 and 6, you can protect them both from all content in the Teens and Adults section by setting your slider at Teens. Once your slider’s been set, the status will read “Content for Teens and up protected by PIN.”
Your PIN can be set at the top of this page, with the default PIN set to 0000 (easy to remember in case you ever assign yourself parental controls by mistake). You should change the PIN to a number difficult enough for your children to guess but easy enough to remember. Most kids will guess 1111 or 1234, for example, but any string of random numbers—0322, for example—should stop them in their tracks. You can change this content slider, as well as your PIN, at any time by returning to this menu inside your settings.
Once you’ve set your PIN and determined the appropriate level of parental control for your family, the entire account will become PIN-protected for specifically-rated content. This doesn’t mean you can’t binge House of Cards–it just means you’ll be prompted to enter the four-digit PIN you set up before you can watch it. When you’ve entered your PIN correctly, you can stream your selected movie or TV show, so it’s still easy to watch whatever you want without worrying about overly difficult content blockers. However, if your children try to watch something blocked behind the ratings system, they’ll be prompted for a PIN. If the PIN is entered incorrectly, nothing will play, and they’ll be returned to the selection screen on their device.
Applying Parental Controls to Specific Profiles
While we recommend placing parental controls on your entire device—and then giving out the parental unlock code as needed—we concede that this plan can get old fast. If you share your Netflix profile with family members and friends of different ages, complete with different tastes in media, it can be difficult to manage. For example, if your family has three children aged 14, 9, and 6, each of those children may need different parental controls. Using the primary content slider inside Settings is great when your children match each other in age and maturity, but otherwise you’ll want to use specific account control to customize the viewing experience for each member of your family.
Start by setting up a PIN for your parental controls using the steps above. You can leave the slider alone for now if you’re looking to set custom parental controls on each profile. Once you’ve set your PIN up, you can begin customizing profile settings one by one. (Oh, and if you start changing your profile settings before you customize your PIN, no worries—remember, the code is set to the default 0000.) Follow these steps:
- Leave settings and head back to the main display inside Netflix.
- Tap on your profile name in the upper-right hand corner of the display to open the drop-down menu for Netflix.
- Find the “Manage Profiles” option within this menu. Manage Profiles will load a display that looks awfully similar to the initial profile display, but with the ability to edit and rename profiles and profile preferences from the on-screen display. Each profile picture will have a large “edit” icon on the logo, allowing you to select the icon and quickly edit the preferences and settings for that user.
- Select the first profile that needs parental controls assigned. Here, you’ll see a field for entering a name, default language options, and a drop-down menu for parental content control. This menu field has four different options, matching the slider menu we saw in the settings display above: Little Kids, Older Kids, Teens, and Adults. Each option allows you to view content from each lower tier, so setting an account to Teens and Below will display all PG-13 and TV-14 content, along with all the other content with lower ratings like PG, G, and TV-Y7. By default, all profiles are set to “All Maturity Levels.” When a restricted show or movie is selected, you’ll be prompted to enter a PIN. This way, your child will have to ask for permission before watching films with a higher rating than you’ve approved.
If you don’t want to set PIN access on your children’s accounts, you can skip setting up a PIN. This will simply block content above a certain rating for a given account. Instead of entering a PIN in your settings, simply head to the Manage Profiles display mentioned above and set the correct content levels for each profile attached to your account. Instead of offering to unlock content with a PIN, when you select mature content from Netflix that is blocked under a specific profile, that viewer will receive a notice that the content can’t be viewed, seen below. There’s a bit less flexibility here, since you can’t unlock movies like Captain America: Civil War for your nine-year-old comics super-fan’s account–if you want to let them watch it, you’ll need to log into your own account. But if you’d rather your children not have the option to unlock content with a PIN, this method makes it easy to block content entirely.
Checking Viewing Activity
Finally, if you’re worried about your children accessing content through a different profile, you can view each profile’s viewing history inside of Netflix’s settings menu.
- Start by launching into the profile whose history you want to view.
- Click the profile name in the top right corner of your display.
- Tap “Account” from the drop-down menu.
- Under the “My Profile” section, find “Viewing Activity.” This option will load a full list of what’s been viewed on a specific profile. You can view dates, episode names, and even remove content from your viewing history.
Setting Kids-Only Access to a Netflix Profile
It’s worth noting that Netflix also has a Kids-Only access mode built into the application, allowing you to easily block all Teen and Adult content from view, helping you maintain control without having to worry about what your child is viewing while browsing through the app. This mode is automatically enabled when using specific content controls on profiles as detailed above. Though the Teens level of content blocking will allow for a normal Netflix display, both the Little and Older Kids options will reformat Netflix into the Kids version of the app, hiding all teen and mature content.
To set any profile on Netflix to Kids-Only access, head to the “Manage Profiles” display detailed in the instructions above. From this screen, click on the profile you’d like to set to Kids-Only. In the corner of the profile display, you’ll find an option to set the account as Kids. Check the box next to this display and save the profile settings. When you load back into the profile, only PG-and-lower content will be displayed on the account, blocking any other content from younger eyes.
You can also switch to a permanent Kids-Only mode inside the profile switcher by tapping on the Kids icon. This eliminates the need for your children to have their own profiles, instead relying on the Kids profile. The Kids view highlights specific characters along the top of the screen and their related content, along with family-safe Netflix Originals like Fuller House, The Adventures of Puss In Boots, and Dreamworks’ Dragons series.
It’s unfortunate that Netflix doesn’t have the capability to permanently hide content from your display. Until Netflix adds the ability to hide specific shows, setting up parental controls is your best bet for helping your child stream safely. It isn’t a perfect system, but there’s no doubt that Netflix has built plenty of options for helping parents control what their child sees on the system.
As services like Netflix more and more become the typical way for watching content online, you can bet that parental controls and content blockers will become more and more important. Setting up parental controls and PIN locks on profiles within Netflix is a good start to helping your child find appropriate content on their own.