Protecting Our Kids from Harmful Entertainment

By Carol Cuppy
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Teaching Kids Media Discernment will help them make wise choices
Teaching kids media discernment will protect them and teach them to make wise choices in what they watch.
One way to protect our kids from watching harmful things is to restrict which shows are watched by using parental controls on content streaming services. Here is a list of the top 5 streaming services and how to set up parental controls on each.

Entertainment & Our Kids

Today’s entertainment is a continual flood of different messages. From movies to music, each day our minds are bombarded by content filled with sexual innuendo, violence and questionable morals. It is vitally important that we not only guard our own hearts and minds, but that we protect those of our children as well. Teaching our children media discernment from a young age will help them make wise choices when it comes to content later in life, and may impact their thoughts and actions for years to come.  

Proverbs 22:6 instructs us as parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Short of moving to a deserted island, it is impossible for our families to escape the tidal wave of messages that come our direction each day. By practicing discernment in what and how much media we watch, and teaching our children how to do the same, we are guarding our hearts and minds against things that could be damaging to us.

The Impact of Media on Our Brains

The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:22-23 that, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Our eyes are the entrance to our hearts, and whatever we watch with them will take root in our hearts. Therefore, it is important to watch good, wholesome content rather than filling our hearts with things that are not Christlike.

What we watch sticks in our memory. Because media can influence our emotions and moods, it can play on our imagination even years later. It can also have an impact on our thinking and perspectives which influence our actions. What we watch can even have an impact on our child’s brain development.

Most of a child’s brain development happens in the first few years of his or her life. As a result, kids who watch TV at such a young age are at higher risk for Attention Deficit Disorder and obesity from sitting too much. There can also be a dramatic impact on emotional and language skills. 

Get Out and Play!

A large part of media discernment is not only knowing what our children should watch, but how much they should be watching. Most children use screens an average of seven hours a day. The AHA recently issued a statement recommending that children should only use screens one to two hours per day. So what healthy, non-screen related activities can you get your child involved in? The possibilities are endless! Here are a few examples to get the ideas flowing:

Exercise and Sports
Getting your child involved in sports through school or intramurals is a great way to occupy their time, teach them teamwork and other skills, and give them exercise. Even if your children aren’t part of a sports team, you can still kick the soccer ball around or shoot some basketball hoops as a family. Take an evening walk, go on a bike ride together, or explore a local park.

Board Games
Playing board games is fun and a way to fuel the competitive spirit and create bonding time within a family.  Pick from one of the classics, or perhaps even create your own!

Music
Encourage your child to learn a musical instrument. There are many benefits to a child learning to play a musical instrument, including increased coordination, memory and learning skills. If possible, have your child play with a local or school band or orchestra.

Art Projects and Hobbies
The sky is the limit when it comes to art projects and things that your kids can create. Try a variety of different projects and hobbies and see which they like best. Learning to draw, paint, sew, knit, crochet, build models or complete puzzles are great places to get started.

Create Your Own Entertainment
Reading stories with your children has many benefits of its own, including sparking their imagination. Have your children put on their own play or create their own movie based on a story that you have read together. Your child may discover a love of acting, which would make it possible for them to get involved in a school or local theater program.

7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment

Good parents aren’t perfect. There’s no formula to follow, but there are ways you can grow every day. Focus on the Family’s 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment gives parents an honest look at their unique strengths, plus some areas that could use a little help.

Protecting Our Kids through Parental Controls

With all of this media and content coming at our families, how can we protect our kids from watching things that may be harmful? First, read reviews of any content our kids are watching. Next, talk to your kids about the importance of media discernment. Then, restrict which shows your kids can watch by using parental controls on content streaming services.

All of the major streaming platforms have parental controls that you can use to monitor what your child is watching, and to prevent them from viewing questionable content. Using parental controls opens up the opportunity for conversation with our kids about what they are watching. We can use this as a chance to discuss what they are watching, and why it is important for them to watch good content. Furthermore, it is also a great time to discuss how much time they spend watching content, and why it is good to limit that time so they can pursue other learning and activities. Teaching kids to make good choices at a young age will help them in the future.  

To help you get started and have confidence in what your children are watching, we’ve compiled a list of the top five streaming services and have outlined how to set up parental controls for each. Keep in mind that while these streaming platforms allow you to limit what type of content your children see, they do not allow you to limit the time spent watching. If you want some extra assistance with making sure the content and time limits for your kids are controlled, check out Forcefield, Net Nanny or other parental control software

Netflix

Netflix has a kids profile that you can quickly use to find appropriate shows for your children. For more detailed control, you can create individual profiles for each member of your family and set specific restrictions for each one.

Netflix separates content by age:

  • Little Kids (age 6 and under)
  • Older Kids (age 12 and under)
  • Teens (age 14 and under)
  • Adults (age 15+)

When you create a new profile for your kids, keep in mind that it defaults to showing everything – mature content included. It’s important that you spend some time to go in and ensure your kids’ profiles have been tailored specifically to them and what content you want them to be able to view.

Setting Up Parental Controls on Netflix

  • Log in to your Netflix account.
  • Click on Manage Profiles.
  • Choose the profile that you want to change.
  • Select the drop-down menu under Allowed TV Shows and Movies. Set the age range that you want for your kids to have access to watch. You can select For Little Kids Only, For Older Kids and Below, or For Teens and Below.
  • You can also select Kids in order to quickly adjust their settings. To the right of your profile, there is a checkbox next to the word “Kid?” Clicking on that box will limit that profile to content that is appropriate for children under the age of 12. You can also choose the For Little Kids Only option here.
  • Be sure to click Save when you are done. 

Netflix states that it can take up to 8 hours for changes to take effect, so be sure to check that your controls are in place.

One thing to note is that your main account is treated differently than the individual profiles. You can’t set kids settings and restrictions to your main account. Netflix states that the changes are limited to your main profile in order to “preserve access to your account page.”

Setting Up a PIN Number

Netflix also allows parents to set a unique PIN number – a 4-digit, numerical password. Users who have the PIN number can override any parental controls that have been put in place. Without this passcode, the parental controls cannot be overridden or changed.

IMPORTANT: Never share your PIN number with your kids. If you do, they will be able to override the protections you have put in place and view any content they choose.

How to create a PIN:

  • Log in to your Netflix account.
  • Select Parental Controls.
  • Input your password.
  • Create your PIN. This should be a 4-digit number.
  • Choose the settings that you want to use for that profile, including what level of maturity the content should be. 
  • Be sure to save your changes.

If you want to restrict the viewing of all content until you have approved it, you can set Netflix to require your PIN number each time. To set this feature, click the bubble above the Little Kids option.

If you wish to restrict specific titles, regardless of their maturity level, you can type them into the box under Restrict Specific Titles.

Amazon Prime

Amazon makes it very easy to set parental controls on its streaming service. However, the PIN numbers and settings only apply to the device or devices that they were set up for. Also, you cannot set up individual profiles for each of your kids; the changes must be made to the entire account. It’s also worth noting that all of the Fire products (TV, tablets, phones) have their own way to set up parental control settings. 

Setting up a PIN Number:

  • On a computer: Log in to your Amazon account. Go to Prime Video Settings – Parental Controls.
  • With the App: Select My Stuff from the bottom menu.
  • Select the Settings icon, then Parental Controls.
  • Choose Change Prime Video PIN.
  • Enter a 4-digit PIN number and be sure to hit Save. Remember: don’t share your PIN number with your kids!

Setting Parental Controls on Amazon Prime:

  • Log in to your Amazon account and go to Account & Settings.
  • OR – from the App, select My Stuff from the bottom menu.
  • Choose Settings.
  • Click Parental Controls, then Viewing Restrictions.
  • Set which shows are in the age range you want your child to view, and select the devices you want those restrictions to be applied to. Finally, be sure to click Save.

Hulu

Hulu allows you to set up to five different viewing profiles for each of your family members on their streaming platform. Remember: All content is automatically allowed on each profile, so be sure to tailor each profile individually. 

To Create a New Profile:

  • Sign in to the Hulu website, and click Profiles.
  • Enter a name for the new account
  • Choose whether or not to turn on the Kids toggle switch.
  • Enter a birth date to establish your child’s age. This will prevent him or her from seeing content that not appropriate for his or her age.
  • Your kids can watch their content on the Kids Hub. Only content geared toward children will show up in search results.

Disney+

Disney+ offers a wide variety of content, none of which is rated R or MA. However, some content may be PG or PG-13. There is also nothing to prevent the kids from switching to another user’s profile. 

How to Set Up A PIN on the Disney+ Website:

  • You will be prompted to set up your PIN when you create an account. If you choose to add one or change the code later:
  • Log in to your Disney+ Account.
  • Choose your avatar (character picture), then My Profile.
  • Select Change Passcode.
  • Enter your new 4-digit PIN number.
  • Finally, be sure to click Save.

How To Set Up a PIN on the Mobile App:

  • Choose your avatar (character picture), then My Profile.
  • Select Edit PIN.
  • Enter your new PIN number.

Creating a Profile:

  • Click or tap your avatar (character picture) or name.
  • Choose Edit Profiles, then Add Profile.
  • Select an avatar or picture for the new profile.
  • Type in the new profile’s name.
  • Toggle the Kids switch to On. This will block all PG and PG-13 content for your child. 

How to Set Parental Controls:

  • Log in to your Disney+ account. Select your Avatar/Character in the top right corner of the screen.
  • Select Parental Controls.
  • If you have a PIN number, enter it here.
  • Choose which profile you want to add or change parental controls.

Content Restriction Filter

This filter lets you personalize each profile by choosing which content is available on each. All profiles are set, by default, to the birth date you entered when you created the profile. To change what your kids can see on their profile, slide the white circle to the highest age range you want them to be able to see. All changes are saved automatically. 

YouTube

YouTube Logo

YouTube is full of every type of content imaginable. It can be a great resource for learning new things, helping with homework, or creating new recipes. But it can also have questionable content for your kids. With thousands of new videos uploaded each day, it can feel like a daunting task regulating what your kids do or don’t see.

Creating a New Profile from the YouTube Website:

  • Go to YouTube and Sign In to your Google account.
  • Click on your profile’s icon or photo in the top right corner of the screen.
  • Select Restricted Mode in the menu, then turn it On.
  • Close the window.

Creating a New Profile from the YouTube App:

  • Open the App and Sign In.
  • Tap your profile’s icon or photo in the top right corner.
  • Choose your settings.
  • Tap Restricted Mode Filtering.
  • Close the window.

Setting Up Parental Controls on YouTube:

  • First, set up a profile for your child in the same way you set up your profile.
  • Parental controls can easily be accessed at any time in the app by tapping the Lock icon in the bottom corner of any page.
  • To access parental controls, you’ll be asked to solve a math problem, or enter the numbers that appear. You can also enter your password.
  • Click or tap Settings.
  • Choose your child’s profile and enter your password.
  • Select from these options:
    • Preschool (Ages 4 and under)
    • Younger (Ages 5-7)
    • Older (Ages 8-12)
    • Approve Content Yourself

Approved-Content Only Setting:

  • Your child will only be able to watch content that you’ve handpicked. Your child will not be able to search for any videos.
    • Go to the Lock icon at the bottom of the page and solve the math problem. 
    • Select Settings.
    • Choose your child’s profile and enter your password.
    • Next, click Approved-Content Only.
    • Review the information in the Getting Started pop-up and then select Start.
    • Tap the + icon on all of the content or categories that you’d like to allow your child to view.
    • Click Done.
    • You can edit this list of approved content at any time by selecting Manage under the Approved-Content Only setting.

A Few Notes:

  • While YouTube tries to ensure that all content is appropriate for kids in that age group, occasionally something inappropriate will slip through the cracks. You can report any video that you believe is not age appropriate for your children and YouTube will review (and remove it if appropriate) immediately.
  • You can preview how all of the different settings will look to your kids before you allow them to access YouTube.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide will help you to set up controls for your children in the applications that you are using to stream content. If you are using streaming platforms other than the ones listed here, you can find How To guidelines on the application’s website or by searching the Internet. Focus on the Family’s A Parent’s Guide to Technology is also be an excellent resource.

Remember that guarding our hearts and minds is critical to our lives, and our walk with Christ. Proverbs 4:23-27 (NIRV) states: “Above everything else, guard your heart. Everything you do comes from it. Don’t speak with twisted words. Keep evil talk away from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead. Keep looking right in front of you. Think carefully about the paths that your feet walk on. Always choose the right ways. Don’t turn to the right or left. Keep your feet from the path of evil.”

In conclusion, be encouraged that there are safe ways for your children to enjoy movies and entertainment. Having open conversations with your kids that help them understand the importance of media discernment will help them to make wise media choices for years to come.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Carol Cuppy
Carol Cuppy

Carol Cuppy is a content producer for Focus on the Family.

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