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Roku & Spotify Just Added Parental Controls — Parents Rejoice & Kids Whine

Marshall Bright

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Remember when cutting cords was supposed to make life easier? Now, it means a ton of different passwords and monthly fees trying to hit all the must-see TV. It can also mean, for parents, figuring out individual parental controls on each service — if they exist at all. While some services, like Netflix and YouTube, already offer kid versions of their services, others are just catching up. This past week, both Roku and Spotify announced that their services will begin to include parental controls.

Spotify has added parental controls onto their family plans, allowing parents to block music marked as explicit. As The Verge pointed out, this is one of the few things about the family plan that actually feels like it’s for a family. Previously, the only real distinction between the regular Spotify subscription and the family one was that it allowed you to have up to six accounts and profiles for $14.99. Individual premium subscriptions only allow one listener at a time and only one profile. Whoever is the master account on the family plan will be able to set parental controls on accounts, and other users won’t be able to switch them off without a passcode.

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Another new feature is the “Family Mix” playlist, which can create custom playlists based on individual listening habits. Each family mix playlist can be customized by who is around, making it a fun way for everyone to get a little bit of music that they like during game night or family clean-up. The two new features are currently available in Ireland and will be rolling out elsewhere soon, though no timeline was provided.

Roku’s parental controls are a bit more complicated since Roku is a device and not a streaming service. As TechCrunch reports, its new parental controls will rely on partnerships with streaming and cable services to aggregate content onto their Kids & Family section. There are currently 30 participating partners, including premium channels like HBO, and 7,000 of the TV episodes are free of ads. However, at this time, it excludes Hulu and Netflix, two leading sources of kid’s entertainment.

Because kids will still be able to navigate away from the family channel, Roku is also introducing parental controls that can deny viewers access to certain programming without a pin number. Because there are no user profiles, all adults using Roku will have to enter the pin to, say, start their binge of season one of Succession. While the news is certainly welcomed by many parents who’d rather not have their kids accidentally doing the same thing, it’s also important to remember that there are limits to how much parental controls can replace actual parenting. Back in June, The Verge reported on Facebook discovering, only after the fact, that its Messenger Kids service was letting kids chat with strangers, exactly what it was set up to avoid. While parental controls on digital platforms can give parents peace of mind, they will never fully replace the need to keep an eye on what your kid is up to.

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