Roku and Roku TV
The Complete Guide to Roku Parental Controls
Great news for families! Roku has added a Kids and Family section on the Roku Channel and has added parental controls to it. This is a big deal on a streaming TV platform that has been void of solid parental controls since inception.
The content in the Kids and Family section is an aggregate of child-friendly content from other channels on Roku. Everything is chosen by an in-house editorial team. This section will be “lighter” on ads and will only show ads that are “kid-appropriate, and are vetted and served internally by Roku.”
It will be really important for families to enable these parental controls, since Roku is also home to a lot of explicit content.
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
In addition to the new Kids and Family parental controls, parents can set a 4-digit pin that limits the addition of new channels to the Roku account (explained below).
A few important definitions:
- Roku Private or Hidden Channels – there are thousands of channels that can be browsed and added at the viewers discretion. These are referred to collectively as private or hidden channels. Companies can develop and distribute their own content through this channel listing.
- 4-Digit Pin – this is set in order to limit what channels are added to the Roku account. This pin does NOT prevent X-rated channels already loaded from being watched nor does it prevent browsing X-rated channel titles.
How to Set your Roku Pin
Setting the 4-digit pin is important for preventing young people from adding and watching pornographic content.
- Log in to your Roku account through a web browser on a computer or mobile device.
- Select Update underneath PIN Preference and then select the option to always require a PIN to make purchases and to add items from the Channel Store.
- Enter a 4-digit number to create the PIN, select Verify PIN to confirm, and then select Save Changes.
How to Remove Roku Channels Using the Pin
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.
- Using the Roku remote, select My Channels from the Roku home screen.
- Navigate to the channel you want to have removed and then click the Options button (the * key) on the remote.
- Select Remove Channel and then click OK. Do this once more when prompted to confirm removal of the channel.
- Repeat the above steps for any other channels you want to have removed. Channels can also be removed via the Roku app for Android/iOS.
- To hide items (Movie/TV Store and News), access the Roku device’s Settings Menu and select Home Screen. From there, select Hide for the Movie/TV Store and/or News Feed. You can always choose to Show them again.
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.
Additional Steps for the Roku TV
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:
- Press the Home button on your Roku TV remote.
- Scroll up or down and select Settings, then Parental controls.
- Select Enable Parental Controls and then turn it on. Then, set the desired TV/movie ratings limits and/or choose to block unrated programs. Blocked programs will not show video, audio, or title/description (unless the Roku PIN is entered).
What About Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, and YouTube?
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.
- Netflix: How do I set parental controls on my Netflix account?
- Amazon: How do I set Amazon Video Parental Controls?
- Hulu: Does Hulu have parental controls?
- VUDU: Does VUDU have parental controls?
- Sling TV: How do I activate parental controls on my Roku?
- HBO GO: How do I use parental controls with HBO GO?
- YouTube: How do I set YouTube to Restricted Mode on Roku?*
*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 Parental Controls Bottom Line for Parents
The recent Kids and Family change is good. Although some parents might avoid using these new parental controls since Roku devices lack the ability to create individual profiles, which means parents will be subject to the same controls (unless they decide to disable/re-enable each time).
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 blocking porn at the router level by understanding clean DNS.