The short story about parental controls on Roku is that there aren’t many.
Although Roku devices are used by millions of people, they are surprisingly minimal on parental controls when compared to Apple TV or Chromecast. In fact, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has named Roku to its Dirty Dozen List for two consecutive years due to the proliferation of hardcore pornography readily available through the device. NCOSE goes as far as saying:
“Pornographers…widely advertise for their private channels and applaud Roku in forum after forum for being the go-to streaming device to permit this material.”
Related Content: Roku Named to 2018 Dirty Dozen List
The only step parents can really take is to set a 4-digit pin that limits the addition of new channels to the Roku account. This will come as a difficult surprise for many families who love their Roku and/or their Roku TV, as the For Every Mom team points out in their blog post about the lack of parental controls and proliferation of porn that streams through the device.
A few important definitions:
Setting the 4-digit pin is important for preventing young people from adding and watching pornographic content.
Once the PIN has been established, channels can be removed. Items like the Movie Store, TV Store, and News – can also be hidden from the main screen.
BUT, the issue for parents is that although the 4-digit pin prevents inappropriate channels from being added and watch, it doesn’t prevent someone from browsing the channels. Here is just a sample of the private channel titles (and related descriptions) that anyone can browse.
TRIGGER WARNING – these titles are suggestive.
These are quite tame compared to what else is available. The difficulty with the lack of parental controls is that I don’t want any young person even browsing these titles, which could give rise to unhealthy curiosity.
If you have a Roku TV, you can restrict access based on TV/movie ratings. Programs will be blocked if they fall outside the specified rating limits. Follow these steps:
Parents will want to set parental controls on each of these accounts, which are not governed by anything with the Roku device. These channels are simply using Roku as another exit point for their content therefore it’s entirely up to parents to ensure the accounts on each of these streaming services is set up appropriately.
For YouTube, the viewer must be signed into Google, which has a birthday attached to it and shows content accordingly. You can set Restricted Mode in YouTube in Roku, but it’s easy to toggle back off. This video shows the steps.
If you ever want to review a child’s Google activity, which includes their YouTube viewing, you can access it here: Google My Activity
Roku just isn’t family-friendly. The company continues to rebuff NCOSE’s efforts to have them make improvements. You can take action by signing the NCOSE petition through the “Dirty Dozen” blog post link below, if you’re interested.
In the meantime, if you have a Roku, please take the steps above!
Bonus: Don’t forget to always have your router controlled. Everything WiFi in the house has to connect to the internet through your router, including Roku. You can’t watch porn on the Roku if porn is blocked through the router. Learn more about that by understanding clean DNS.