Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Parental Codes that Cable Forgot

As a parent, making sure that your kids don't watch what they're not supposed to has become really easy in recent years. In just a few minutes time, you can make sure your kids don't have access to inappropriate shows while you're away from home, or even just outside of the room. As good as this sounds, there is a major shortcoming, though.

I can speak for only my Comcast service at the moment, and hopefully comments to this article can speak to the other major cable providers, but there is a "blackhole" in the realm of parental controls. Where you ask? On Demand. Although there are many things in life that are far worse, the feeling of coming back into the den or living room while your preschooler digests the currently available movies in the form of "general audience" previews isn't a good one. Depending on your own morals and values, it ranks somewhere with letting your kid out in the rain without a raincoat, never making sure that they eat their vegetables, or letting them have too much soda more often that not.

Your intentions were pure. You put on that episode of "Caillou" that your daughter loves, started doing some laundry and other daily chores and came back into the room to find that On Demand was cycling through the previews for the latest movies. You wonder to yourself, "how long has this been on for?" Only a stopwatch could tell you for sure, but as On Demand has informed your four year old, it turns out that there is a new "Scream" movie to beam to your television, and the latest X-Men movie is now selectable for a-la-carte viewing. Your hope at this point is that there were at least some kid movies advertised in that ten minute long spool of PG-13 and R-rated movie previews.

Sure, the Motion Picture Association approved the previews for all audiences, but I don't think that Mother Theresa ever held a job on that board. Besides, the FCC says that it's just fine for shows like "Tosh.0" to be shown at four in the afternoon. I'm not saying it's not a good show, it's just not appropriate for even most teenagers. Some of the skits and images on that show have made be step back, and I'm a middle-aged man who grew up listening to Iron Maiden. My point here is that parents need to be diligent in what their, sweet, young, impressionable children watch. Unfortunately, On Demand doesn't make that entirely possible.

After going through all of the parental controls, I could never find a setting that would control the age appropriateness of movie previews shown by On Demand, or allow a parent to shut them off entirely. I checked every one of them. I searched the internet, and then I checked the menu again. My hope is that Comcast will provide this feature with a future release of their On Demand software. Until then, set your stopwatch, because when the show you selected is over, who knows just what is going to be on?

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