My imaginary children aren't using your streaming service

by @edent | , , , | 10 comments | Read ~623 times.

Whenever I start up Netflix, I'm asked if I want to create an account for my children.

Screen asking "Who is watching Netflix" with a forced children option.

I don't have children. I don't want children. I find most children annoying - not yours, obviously, yours are lovely. But I resent being asked every single time whether my imaginary kids want an account. It's just annoying.

I can't imagine what it is like for bereaved parents who have recently lost a child. Or for those struggling with fertility issues. That constant reminder every time they try to numb the pain with a sitcom.

For some reason, all the streaming services are desperate for me to add accounts for my (imaginary) children. Are they worried about being sued if little Jimothy accidentally hears a swear word? Thankfully, Netflix lets you delete this imaginary child.

The BBC's iPlayer is less enlightened. They recently forced an "add child account" setting to the front page. It is impossible to remove it.

Apparently, it is technically impossible to remove an option which has recently appeared.

Amazon Prime has the same forced default child-profile. Although, thankfully, they allow you to remove it with a couple of clicks.

Channel 4 goes a step further. Any time I want to watch anything with sex, drugs, or violence - I have to confirm that I don't want to set up a parental lock.

Channel 4 Player asking me to confirm if I'm over 18.

There's no way that I can find to dismiss the screen. That's an extra click for my RSI-ridden hands every time I want to watch a stupid game show.

Here's the thing. The majority of households in the UK don't have kids.

London contained the highest proportion of families with dependent children in 2019; accounting for half of all families in London, compared with the UK average of 42.0%.

There's this weird belief that everything needs to be made safe for children. Even if no children are present, we have to protect them. That has led to some weird antipatterns.

Frankly, if a child somehow makes it into my home, and is left unsupervised long enough to work out which of the 7 remote controls turns on the TV and surround sound system, and figures out how to access Netflix - I'd say they're mature enough to watch whatever they want.

What's the solution?

I get that making your UI easy for harried parents is a priority. They're a big market - and they can be vocal about any perceived harm to their little ones. But there's no reason to keep showing the option if someone doesn't engage with it. You can ask if a child profile is necessary during set up. If you have a pop-up asking if a user wants a child-friendly account, make sure it has a "never ask me again" option.

The world doesn't revolve around children. It's OK to let people who don't have kids use your services without frustration.

10 thoughts on “My imaginary children aren't using your streaming service

  1. My actual children are using your streaming service, but they don't need their own profile because I have activated parental locks on the services they use unsupervised.

    The BBC one is particularly annoying since it comes up every single time. Have a "don't ask me again" button!

  2. As somone who is delibreately, happily, child free - this does infact drive me Banananas!

    Can only imagine if you are Unhappily child free it is a spectacular, regular, kickin the guts

  3. Ben says:

    2 thoughts:

    "I can’t imagine what it is like for bereaved parents who have recently lost a child. Or for those struggling with fertility issues." I am in one of these groups and very close to parents in the other. I can't speak for everyone else but you don't correctly imagine any 'pain' for us caused by the accommodation of other people's children.
    Children are people too and deserve to have their needs met. We often build digital services to address the needs of minority user groups, because it's the right thing to do - if asking to have the 'children' option off by default, why not demand content warnings are also off? You're not photo-epileptic or had a problem with substance abuse (or worse) so why should you have to see those warning captions each time? And what about sub-titles - that get's a button right on the play screen but 'only' ~17% of the UK population has hearing impairment.

    Sorry - writing at speed in my lunch break. Love reading the blog. Respectfully disagree today.

    1. @edent says:

      I respect your respectful disagreement, and am always happy to read your thoughts. I completely accept your first point.

      As for the second. I understand what you mean, but don't agree with your conclusion. I can set subtitles to be always-off if they bother me. A brief flash on the corner of the screen which warns about nudity doesn't interupt me. But if every single program had a mandatory 10 second unskippable warning about flashing lights, then I'd be writing a similar post.

      We should absolutely design to meet everyone's needs - hard agree. But I think that also means acknowledging that people should be able to configure things if they want to.

      I'm reminded of this post about replacing News and Sport with News and Archaeology. I think it's hard for all of us (both you and me) to understand something so specific to us as individuals.

      Hope you had a lovely lunch 🙂

  4. I turned that option off in Netflix. I wish I could remember how! Maybe delete the unwanted profile, in the profile manager?

  5. Brian Daly says:

    Useful for collecting household data. People with kids will probably add a profile for each. People with no children will create the required profile and delete confirming that there are no children in the household.

  6. So true. Great stats too! Thanks. I add my dog.. he’s a clever cookie.

  7. As someone with kids, who did go to some effort to set up the profiles on every service: it’s mostly performative nonsense anyway. The main benefit of separate profiles is that it avoids polluting my own recommendations with Paw Patrol etc.

  8. Omg this. There are no children in this household. If we were somehow to steal someone's child, we're quite capable of setting up the options that we are incapable of dismissing.

    Please stop asking me if we've magically acquired a TV-viewing child every time we watch Taskmaster!

  9. Andrew says:

    You make some good points, but it's hard to find a middle ground. There is a shout for surfacing curated services for children, but even relatively hands-off ones like Disney+ have got the ratings wrong, rendering them pointless.

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