Jennifer Nieva is the director of Product Innovations for Netflix, but she’s also mother to “two very silly kids,” and she knows how important it is for parents to guide their children’s viewing choices.
“All families are different, and what they choose to watch together is going to vary,” she says on a Zoom session. “I would say what changes a bit more is how involved parents are in the process of discovery.”
As we enter yet another lockdown session, Netflix has just made this easier by introducing two new innovations.
First, there’s a biweekly recap email sent out to parents to give them a better idea of what their kids like to watch, including discussion of themes, further recommendations and printable coloring sheets and activities inspired by their favorite characters, as a way to bring the family-viewing experience to real life.
“Parents generally know what their kid’s favorite shows are,” Nieva says, “but they may not have full insights into what the shows are really about. And so the summary of themes gives a better feel for that.”
The email messages also come with links for coloring activities based on their favorite shows. “That’s something we heard from our members: they were looking for ways to connect and bond with their kids around the content that they were watching — not just to know what it was, but to spend some time together. And the coloring sheet lets parents sit down with kids, and talk about the shows, or just talk in general,” she notes.
The other thing these emails offer is help with honing your child’s viewing settings. Specifically, there are new tools for parents to change their child’s profile settings, review if you’d like to block certain themes or key phrases from being searched by a 12-or-under child, and even a four-digit PIN function that allows parents to lock certain accounts from curious eyes.
All these safety settings are now accessible through your main Netflix.com page. There’s even a setting to disable the “autoplay” feature, if you want to limit a child’s viewing time from endless bingeing from episode to episode.
So, yeah. A lot more parental control over what kids watch.
It’s really important that we help our kids discover content that’s good for them, especially when they’re younger and they need us to use the remote, and then they get older and they want to have that remote.
Another innovation Nieva shared is geared towards things kids actually love: Top 10 lists. “If you’re like me, I really love getting recommendations and giving recommendations,” she says. “We’ve had a Top 10 row for adults on Netflix for about a year, very popular, so we’re excited to bring this to kids’ profiles as well. It’s based purely on popularity of content, what kids are watching and kids’ profiles, and it’s updated daily.”
She says it’s also a way to get a quick sense of what the biggest shows are for kids on Netflix so you don’t miss something very popular. Think of it as a useful parental hack, making your search for viewable content way easier from week to week.
Last Friday, Netflix unveiled Vivo, its first release through Sony Animation Studios, and it definitely qualifies as “perfect family viewing”: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zoe Saldaña, Gloria Estefan (and introducing Ynairaly Simo as “Gabi”) voice a Latinx cast of characters that includes a kinkajou and his Cuban bandleader, a long-lost love interest now singing in a Miami nightclub, and a Miami-based teen who thinks outside the box.
Netflix realizes that 60 percent of their members choose to watch kids’ and family content every month – whether it’s together as a family, or on separate devices and screens.
The music is that patented Lin-Manuel mix of Latin and hip-hop rhythms and boisterous rap that brings a lot of youthful energy to the tale of an unlikely friendship between a smart, feisty girl and a tropical rainforest mammal with excellent drumming skills. (You will definitely be LSS-ing one or more of these “Bounce”-y tracks after the credits roll.)
Over the past year during lockdown, Nieva says she’s personally spent more time enjoying family-viewing nights, and the new Netflix innovations will no doubt make “Lockdown Season 3” in Manila a bit more interactive and bearable.
I ask her if some of these innovations came from personal experience with kids at home during the pandemic. “My kids (ages 11 and 13) have been a source of feedback over the years, and to some extent inspiration, but they’re more my tester audience than the ideation group,” she says. When developing innovations, Netflix prefers to rely on a constant reading of its global member base: “We try not to get too local in our considerations.”
What’s important is that Netflix realizes that 60 percent of their members choose to watch kids’ and family content every month — whether it’s together as a family, or on separate devices and screens.
“All families are different, and what they choose to watch together is going to vary,” she concludes. “I would say what changes a bit more is how involved parents are in the process of discovery. It’s really important that we help our kids discover content that’s good for them, especially when they’re younger and they need us to use the remote, and then they get older and they want to have that remote — and then you can almost never get it back from them because they’re making those choices!”
That definitely rings true for most parents these days.