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Feeling empowered about monitoring family media consumption

Published: Wednesday, July 11 2012 11:53 p.m. MDT

"There was once what was called the 'safe harbor' or 'family hour,'" Henson said. "There was at least an hour each night where you could put your kids in front of the TV and not have to worry too much about undue influences or inappropriate content. But that is no longer the case."

However, new innovation is trying to fill that voice: Netflix's "Just For Kids" feature launched in August of 2011 and immediately began functioning as a de facto safe harbor. Available across several Internet and game-console platforms to the 23.4 million people who subscribe to the Netflix streaming service, Just For Kids is an interface separate and apart from the traditional Netflix queue that integrates Common Sense Media age recommendations and proprietary user-preference algorithms to ensure that its young visitors will only be presented with kid-friendly viewing options that are appropriate for ages 12 and under.

"Kids like to fit in with the tribe," said David Watson, Netflix director of product innovation for kids and the creative force behind Just For Kids. "They like to understand how they are like the rest of the people around them; they like to assimilate; they like to fit in with the crowd; they like to watch more popular things."

Not coincidentally, Just For Kids also satisfies parents by fostering a safe harbor for children.

"Parents around the world generally want the same thing for their children," Watson continued. "They don't their children to be scared; they don't want their children to be bored; they don't want their children to be exposed to things that they're not developmentally ready for yet."

Helpful tips

Henson's first advice for parents regarding television consumption is to remove TVs from children's bedrooms.

"There are surveys that indicate that upwards of two-thirds of American children have televisions in their bedrooms — and that's the first problem right there," she said. "We know based on survey data that teens and pre-teens often admit to watching programming that they know their parents would disapprove of — like MTV, for example. So if your child is alone in their room watching television and they're not supervised while they're doing it, there's a strong likelihood that they're going to be violating your household rules on TV content."

In terms of accessing the Internet through computers and smartphones, Gleaves advocates a lifestyle of accountability — a strategy that can continue into adulthood.

"Accountability," he said, "can range from software on a phone that's accountable to a parent, to software like X3Watch that doesn't block any sites and is designed for adult-to-adult accountability."

However, Henson proposes an even more aggressive tack than Gleaves regarding iPhones and Android devices.

"Your kids don't need to have all the latest technological devices," Henson said. "You don't need to give them smartphones with the ability to download video off the Internet, for example. … They don't need to have an Android or an iPhone — really, they don't. Those kinds of devices just make it all that much more difficult for parents to stay on top of what media their child is consuming."

email: jaskar@desnews.com

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