For a paltry $8, Netflix delivers a crush of content via our Blu-ray player, tablets and smart phones courtesy of one well-placed Wi-Fi device. The streaming giant offers the biggest selection of any of its competitors (Amazon Prime, Redbox) and works with an array of gadgets to fit your family’s needs. Netflix allowed us to cut our cable cord and still entertain our sons – all without a single word from our sponsor.
What You’ll Need
- A Web-ready device (Roku, XBOX 360, Apple TV, smart TV, Blu-ray player, tablet or smart phone), an Internet service and (preferably) a Wi-Fi unit
- A Netflix subscription/$8 per month
Streaming Content Isn’t Perfect
The downsides to a Netflix subscription are minimal. Sometimes a favorite program will disappear from the company’s lineup due to an expiring license deal, and occasionally the system will go down or require a reboot. We also pay an extra $10/month to our Internet provider for a faster connection. It’s not mandatory, but without it your service may be interrupted briefly by a “buffering” message. It’s a reminder that the streaming revolution is still in its infancy.
Cable television offers instant gratification, while a Netflix experience requires a dad to navigate the on-screen directory and wait 15 or more seconds for the chosen show to begin.
Something for Every Parent (and Child)
Netflix’s array of film and television content is expansive but incomplete, but it still gives parents plenty of options after the kids fall asleep. The same can’t be said for its children’s fare. The provider offers a wealth of animated content including beloved TV shows (“Barney,” “Caillou”) and feature-length films (“The Lorax”). The company recently sealed a deal with Disney that added some of that studio’s programming (“Dumbo,” “Pocahontus”) into the blend.
The navigation menu is simple and extremely helpful. It recommends shows similar to ones you’ve recently streamed, suggestions that more often than not prove helpful. It also remembers the last programs you’ve watched, in case you want to return for some quality “binge” viewing. The content menu offers simple categories and sub-categories (Fairy Tales, Educational) and it remembers where you left off with a particular show should you need to pause for a potty break or nap.
Some streaming services, like Hulu Plus, mix commercials into their content. Netflix is commercial free, meaning parents don’t have to worry about insistent messages bombarding their children.
Netflix’s kid-friendly content includes documentaries and educational programming, letting parents feel a little less guilty about so much screen time. Our family loves “Super Why!” a fun PBS program which inspires children to hone their reading skills. Animal devotees can check out “Wild Kratts,” an animated-live action hybrid with both sci-fi elements and real information about nature’s beasts.
Parental Guidance Suggested
A small child won’t be able to turn Netflix on, but once the system is engaged he or she can likely surf around and find something to watch. That means parents can’t leave the scene, particularly if they have been watching PG or R-rated material and the child finds the “Recently Watched” section of the home page.
Parents who want tighter controls on what comes into their homes can visit “My Account” on the Netflix web site and select “Parental Control Settings.” That page allows you to choose four levels of appropriate material, from “Little Kids” to “Adults.” Warning: Once the controls are set they apply to all devices which use Netflix. If that’s a hassle, the system allows you to set up individual profiles so that you can connect to Netflix from a personalized account that suits your viewing needs.
Fathers should know Netflix doesn’t offer in-depth content warnings. An episode of “Power Rangers” might seem innocuous, but the show features villains that could prompt nightmares. Parents will have to look elsewhere for detailed reviews on whether a particular show is appropriate.
Netflix uses existing ratings guides (like PG, R and PG-13 for films) but offers its own rating suggestions for content without such labels.
The Best Is Yet to Come?
Netflix takes children’s programming seriously, and it makes sound business sense to do so. The company recently signed a deal to bring 300 hours of original programming to its service in 2014, one of many deals meant to beef up its child-friendly content.
Will the company jack up its prices down the short road? Will stronger competition squeeze some beloved titles from its library? It’s too soon to know, but for now Netflix is an invaluable tool for parents who need a break now and then.