Streaming safety: Education is the best media control for families

Published: Friday, Feb. 15 2013 8:00 a.m. MST

Matt, 21, Slater, 13, and Jackson Lloyd, 17, watch YouTube videos together in their home. Streaming controls are a high priority in the Lloyd home, as well as teaching about positive media consumption.

Marci Lloyd

CEDAR HILLS — It's like any other weeknight for the Lloyd family. Seventeen-year-old Jackson sits on the couch in the family room watching his favorite show via his Netflix account. Thirteen-year-old Slater listens to music on his iPod while doing homework at the table. And their mother, Marci, sends an email from the laptop next to him.

And though Marci Lloyd's oldest isn't in the room with her — he's most likely watching YouTube videos with roommates, while attending Brigham Young University — she doesn't worry about the media her boys are consuming.

Because of media controls she and her husband, Dan, have implemented in their home, and the education on the potential dangers of media — specifically of streaming media — they have provided, the Lloyds have worked to protect and prepare their children to make wise decisions about what they watch, especially when no controls are in place.

As technology and personal devices continue to become more advanced, the content available for access at any time or place increases. On YouTube alone more than 4 billion hours of video are watched every month, with 72 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute. From music videos to do-it-yourself craft tutorials to television clips, YouTube has it all — and more.

For those more interested in streaming full-length movies and television shows on demand, Netflix is a popular option, along with Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vimeo and many others. With more than 27 million subscribers for its streaming service just in the U.S., Netflix's ever-growing library continues to feed consumers what they want, right when they want it. As Netflix continues to gather in-depth data on people's watching habits, the world may soon have shows tailored specifically to what each viewer wants.

Kids can now view media just as easily at school on a friend's phone as at home surfing the Web with a parent behind one shoulder. Though TV ratings and V-chip technology have been around since the mid-1990s, such controls are, in many ways, ineffectual in today's world of always available streamed media.

Because of the free and easy-to-access content now available on a variety of devices, families must actively deal with the issue of what is appropriate for children.

"I feel like, if you aren't conscientious about what (your children) watch, you're just throwing your kids to the wolves; you're just allowing the whole entire world to influence your kids' values," Lloyd said. "We just don't want the Internet in our kids' hands with the whole world around but us."

With so much liberty in browsing the World Wide Web from almost any device — phone, tablet, computer, television, game console — it isn't possible to control everything a child or teen sees, as the Lloyds well know.

However, effective tools are available now to help parents manage media. In addition to these external mechanisms, a family can implement greater awareness and education to help children understand how to make decisions surrounding media usage and information finding. Then, when they are out in the real world, they will have it within themselves to make wise choices.

The possibilities — and dangers — of streaming media

Even though her children are still young, Heather King said it's "freaky" how easy and natural it is for them to keep up with technology and media, which is why she believes it is more and more vital for media in today's world to have boundaries.

"We're always drawn to the train wreck, and right now it is the porn that is such a big deal, and these kids are so inundated," said King, a writer and founder of the blog The Extraordinary Ordinary. "Kids are vulnerable because they're kids."

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