Among popular video entertainment services, Google Chromecast and Apple TV provide the safest viewing options for children and their parents, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in its latest research.
Popular streaming video on demand (SVOD) and over-the-top (OTT) entertainment viewing options expose children to disturbing and edgy programs rated only for mature audiences, the PTC said in the study released Aug. 8.
“We are in a period of revolutionary change in the way people consume entertainment, and the media environment is changing at a rapid pace,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a teleconference. “As technology continues to evolve, it is incumbent on the companies leading the charge to also consider how children and families will be impacted. It is our hope that this report will help move that dialogue forward.”
The report studied and ranked the top SVOD and OTT internet viewing services and devices based on the strength of parental controls and the availability of content appropriate for families and children.
“Given so much adult programming, it’s concerning that the various services have not provided better control of the content that children have access to,” Winter said. “We hope that this is a good call for parents to be more aware and we certainly hope that those providers of these services will join us next year at a symposium where we can identify and find good workable solutions to help make a more safe and sound media environment for parents and families.”
Creating and following a uniform ratings system, increasing parental control options, blocking explicit titles when parental controls are activated and increasing the availability of original family-friendly content are needed to protect children from inappropriate content, the PTC said. At the same time, parents should comparison shop and be aware of parental controls available, the group recommended.
In addition to Google Chromecast and Apple TV, the PTC studied OTT streaming devices Amazon Fire TV and Roku, and the SVOD Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix services.
Only Google Chromecast received an “A” rating of any service studied, whether SVOD or OTT, but only because its “limited functionality” gives parents greater control over the content streamed over devices for children’s viewing, said the study’s author, PTC Program Director Melissa Henson. Apple TV was the only OTT device among those studies that allowed parents to set restrictions on music, podcasts and streamed video, Henson said.
Amazon Fire TV and Roku trailed third and fourth, respectively, with C and D ratings among OTT services.
SVOD providers in particular suffer from a lack of consistency in age-based content ratings, Henson said.
“A stand-up comedy special that uses a lot of foul language is rated the same as a travel or cooking show that might have 1 or 2 ‘F’ words,” Henson said, “or the same as ‘13 Reasons Why,’ which deals with teen suicide, or the same as Marco Polo, which contains graphic sexual content and nudity.”
Among SVOD providers, the PTC ranked Hulu best for the use of ratings (B), followed by Amazon Prime Video (C) and Netflix (C minus). For the strength of parental controls, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix scored highest (B plus), with Hulu garnering a C minus. While Hulu far outpaced competitors in the visibility of adult titles and content, receiving a B plus, it fell last in the availability of original content for families, ranking a D. The competitors were only slightly better in original content, both receiving Cs.
None of the SVOD services offer family plans that would allow parents to block “all explicit titles at all times across all devices,” Henson wrote in the report’s major findings. “A portion of your subscription fee is going to underwrite explicit content.”
The full study, “Over-the-Top or a Race to the Bottom: A Parent’s Guide to Streaming Video,” is available at parentstv.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)