Over the weekend, I received an email from Netflix telling me that my Wii Netflix disc was on the way and would arrive at my house sometime on Monday.  At first I was excited for my kids.  The Wii is on our television in the living room and my father-in-law has introduced the kids to the cartoons and Disney stuff that's available through Instant Watch.  I figured the kids could get some good use out of the subscription but my enthusiasm for Netflix on the Wii dropped considerably when I looked into the specifics of how this service would work for my family.

Recently, I've been watching the Showtime series, "Weeds".  I'm on season one and I am enjoying the series.  The problem I have with this is that "Weeds" will now be available to watch on the Wii and that's certainly not a show I want my 10 year old daughter having access to.  So, last night, I spent some time trying to figure out the parental controls for Netflix and left their site less than impressed.  Before I get into this, we watch what our kids watch but I don't sit by their side 24x7 while they watch TV.  We trust that they'll make good decisions but let's face it, good decisions and curiosity are mutually exclusive.  The line gets blurred even more when their best friend's parents let their 10 year olds watch a movie I wouldn't consider appropriate for my 10 year old.  So before you jump on here and tell me to parent my kids, I'm going to pre-emptively tell you that that is exactly what I am trying to do.

Netflix has three major faults that I can see as a parent.

  1. The history of what you watched or rented cannot be deleted.  If you watch 10 seconds of an Instant Watch movie, that movie is listed in your history and there's no way to remove it.
  2. The "Recently Watched" list completely bypasses all maturity ratings for the account so setting the account to PG for normal use and then increasing it to watch an episode or two of "Weeds" would make "Weeds" available to the account even when the maturity setting was reduced back down to PG.
  3. Sub profiles under an account do not allow Instant Watch, only DVD rentals from your account's total number of available rentals.

In the end, I was forced to cancel my current account and sign up for a new account with a different email address.  From there, I at least had a clean cache of DVDs and Instant Watch movies and I could restrict the maturity level on the account down to PG.  Unless I want to pay for a second Netflix account, I basically cannot use the account any longer to watch anything above the PG rating that I set for the kids.  Netflix needs to fix this and fix it soon.  The proliferation of streaming devices to other TVs in my house has made it so that my account needs to meet my needs and the needs of my kids.  The parent controls are woefully inadequate.  

I like Netflix and I enjoy watching Instant Watch shows from time to time.  All that really needs to happen is for Netflix to solve one of the problems above, preferably the last one.  Let me give my kids their own account that's connected to my account.  The Wii can login using their account and my Xbox can log in using my account.  It's that simple to solve the problem.  Let's hope they update their service soon.