SALT LAKE CITY — Netflix has begun testing a new feature that critics are concerned may reward children for binge-watching TV.
As Variety reported, Netflix is trying out a gamification element that allows children to collect virtual patches for watching episodes of select TV shows, including "Fuller House," "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and "Trollhunters."
People on Twitter first spotted the change. Netflix later confirmed the new feature in a statement sent to Variety.
“We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectible items for a more interactive experience, adding an element of fun and providing kids something to talk about and share around the titles they love. We learn by testing, and this feature may or may not become part of the Netflix experience,” according to Netflix.
Netflix viewers will see a red lock symbol above patches-enabled shows.
However, watching these shows and receiving patches doesn’t offer any reward yet, according to Variety.
Twitter users shared surprise over the new feature.
Others didn’t feel so thrilled about the patches feature.
It’s unclear if the patches feature will become a permanent factor in Netflix’s service.
According to Digital Trends, Netflix will test the feature to gauge how much it helps keep parents and children engaged with the streaming service.
Netflix will also weigh parental response before deciding to keep the patches or not.
“If a lot of parents end up complaining about the system, then Netflix may simply scrap it regardless of how well it does in the area of user retention,” according to Digital Trends.
As Fortune pointed out, Netflix’s recent test is reminiscent of Electronic Arts' decision last year to release “loot crates” in “Star Wars Battlefront II,” a game often marketed to children. Critics said at the time that loot crates encouraged children to gamble because they cost real money to buy even though there’s no guarantee which special features gamers will unlock from them.
Research has indicated that gamification can lead to more engagement, according to The Verge.
However, a study from the University of South Australia and Université Toulouse in France said it might not create long-lasting benefits.1 comment on this story
“The positive effect of gamification on engagement appeared to lessen over time," the study states. "This result is not surprising, given that extrinsic rewards such as badges and points tend to wear off after a short period of novelty.”
Excessive television viewing has been reported to harm a child’s physical and mental development, according to various research data compiled in this article by the Urban Childhood Institution. In January of this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at Harlow College in the U.K., stating that he doesn't want young members of his family to spend too much time on social media and that he doesn't "believe in overuse" of technology.