You're in control with parental controls

A guide to the tools that are available to keep your whānau safe when viewing entertainment online.

mother and child

You control what you and your whānau watch, and we can help you with those choices. NZ age ratings and content descriptions displayed on streaming platforms can help you make informed decisions.

You can also control the sort of TV shows and movies your whānau can access by using ‘parental controls’. These allow you to set the maximum NZ age rating for your account or profile, and you can have different profiles for different family members.

Tamariki and rangatahi can access virtually any content on their devices: they play games, watch series and films on streaming services like Netflix, and videos on YouTube and social media.

Our latest research found that over half of parents and caregivers with tamariki and rangatahi at home (53%) said they or someone in their household uses parental controls for streaming services. Around a third of parents said they did not use parental controls, and 11% were unsure.

How to use parental controls

Parental control tools allow you to be in control, protecting your whānau from unexpectedly seeing upsetting and yucky content. These settings may also be available cross-platform for things like apps, games, and web use.

Streaming services

Apple TV+

Apple offer controls across music, TV shows, and films and aren’t limited to the Apple TV service.

When using Apple devices, you can set age limits for apps, games, videos, movies & TV, set time limits for device use, and keep an eye on location using Find My Device.

Regardless of your operating system you can set restrictions on your Apple TV account to show age-appropriate TV shows and movies.

In Apple TV you create a passcode (a four digit code) in your profile to set content restrictions.

The levels of restriction are:

  • Music: CLEAN / EXPLICIT
  • TV shows: G / PG / M / 13 / 16 / 18
  • Movies: Suitable for general audiences / Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers / Suitable for mature audiences 16 and over / 13 / 16 / 18 / unrated

Learn more about Apple TV+ settings:

Disney+

Disney+ offers safeguards through profiles for each user. To control the types of movies and shows that you and your whānau are able to watch on the Disney+ service you can set a content rating level for your profile, or you can create a Kid's Profile. More detailed instructional information can be found in their Help Centre at disneyplus.co.nz.

Learn more about Disney+ settings:

Google Play and YouTube

Google’s parental controls allow you to control age restrictions when purchasing or renting movies and shows on the Google Play Store and YouTube Movies. You must have a Google account to purchase or rent movies and shows.

Google’s parental controls are available on Android devices, via web browsers or the Google apps (Google Play, YouTube). You can restrict the content that can be downloaded or purchased from Google Play based on a ‘maturity level’.

There are 11 different age-level restrictions to choose from that fit with the NZ age rating levels, ranging from G (suitable for general audiences) through to R18 (only for 18 years and older).

Please be aware that Google’s parental controls don’t stop yucky, unwanted content appearing as a search result or when clicking a direct link to a website.

Google Play Movies

There are two ways to manage the type of stuff your whānau have access to. You can create profiles with content restrictions or you can manage restrictions via the Google Family Link app.

  • Create profiles with content filters: the Google Play app allows you to create a PIN for a profile (account), turn on parental controls, and select the type of content to filter.
  • Use the Family Link app to manage what they see: if a family member’s Google account is managed with Family Link you can set the restrictions for their account. Open the Family Link app, select your family member, and tap *controls* for ‘content restriction’ options.

YouTube

YouTube offers two family-friendly versions of YouTube so you can set the content restrictions appropriate for your whanau: YouTube Kids or ‘supervised’ YouTube.

YouTube Kids has content for young children. You can choose content settings back on three age groups:

  • Preschool (ages 4 and under)
  • Younger (ages 5–8)
  • Older (ages 9–12)

A ‘supervised’ YouTube account is designed for children under 13. Age limit options range from ages 9+, 13+, or ‘most of YouTube’. A supervised account doesn’t include content for ages 18+.

Learn more about Google (Alphabet) settings:

Microsoft

Microsoft enables you to set up parental controls on the accounts in a family or household. This is created using the Microsoft Family Safety App. Within a Family Group you can see activity reports, set age limits, and set time limits.

Microsoft also offer Kids Mode safe browsing on their native web browser Microsoft Edge. The Kids Mode doesn't require a child account or profile, but does offer kid-friendly content, browsing based on an allow list, Bing SafeSearch set to strict, and a password requirement to exit.

The Xbox Family Settings tools, including the App, allow parents and caregivers to manage your whānau gaming by managing screentime, spending limits, friend requests and viewing activity reports.

Microsoft Movies & TV has the following parental controls available:

Ask to Buy

Tamariki and rangatahi need to raise a purchase request to parents for purchase of content on Microsoft Movies & TV. The parent or caregiver will receive an email to approve or reject the request. As a parent or caregiver you approve the request, which completes the transaction. The movie or TV show can only be viewed once the caregiver has approved the purchase.

Content restrictions

Parents can block the Microsoft Movies and TV website on Microsoft Family Safety under “content filters”. This will block the access to the platform for kids.

Learn more about Microsoft settings:

Netflix

There are three ways to control the types of movies and shows that you and your whānau are able to watch on Netflix’s service: you can set a content rating level for your profile, restrict certain titles for your profile (regardless of the age rating) or you can create a Kid's Profile.

Set a content rating level

You can set the viewing restrictions for your profile when editing your profile. ‘Maturity rating and title restrictions’ for a profile mean the age rating levels that you want to show on the profile.

Netflix’s viewing restrictions slider has seven age levels to choose from, which use NZ age rating levels to guide you: G / PG / M / RP13, 13 R13 / R15, RP15 / RP16, 16, R16 / RP18, 18, R18.

Title restrictions

Enter a show or movie title name to select it for restriction in your profile.

Netflix Kids experience

You can change any profile into a Kid's Profile by selecting this option in ‘viewing restrictions’. A Kid's Profile will include television shows and movies with a rating suitable for all ages (G - general, and PG - parental guidance, rated content).

Learn more about Netflix settings:

Prime Video

Prime Video offers two ways to control the types of movies and shows available to view or purchase on your device: set a content rating level for your profile or create a Kid's Profile.

Set a content rating level

A Prime Video profile allows you to set a pin code and set your restrictions.

Currently, Prime Video has age rating levels for an international audience: choose from ALL / 7+ / 13+ / 16+ / 18+ across the content restriction slider.

In early 2023 Prime Video will be updating their levels to reflect NZ age ratings so you can choose from G / PG / R13 / M / R16 / R18 settings.

Kid's Profile

A Kid's Profile is restricted to only show “G” and “PG” ratings. That is content appropriate for all audiences.

Learn more about Prime Video settings:

Sky NEON

There are two ways to control the types of movies and shows that you and your whānau are able to watch on the NEON service: you can set a content rating level for your profile or you can create a Kid's Profile.

Sky’s NEON currently displays Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) ratings as they work on updating their platforms to display NZ classifications and ratings. Therefore the content rating restriction options available suit the BSA ratings currently on their service.

Set a content rating level

When you create a general profile you have the option to select a content rating level that suits you or your whānau.

The content rating options for this type of profile are General (G) / Parental Guidance (PG) / Mature (M) / Restricted (R). You will see content up to and including that rating.

Kid's Profile

You can select from ‘For Older Kids’ or ‘For Little Kids Only’.

The content rating options for a Kid's Profile are General (G) for Little Kids Only, or Parental Guidance (PG) for Older Kids. An Older Kids profile will be able to see and access G and PG content.

Learn more about Sky NEON settings:

Gaming platforms

EA Origin

EA encourages parents to create an EA Account and then making a separate account for their child. Child accounts cannot purchase games using the online store front and must redeem product codes bought elsewhere. When redeeming a product code Origin will check the age using the birthdate that is associated with the account in order to decide whether a game is able to be played or not. Find out more here.

Nintendo

You can place age restrictions on software either through the console itself, or through the associated mobile app. A PIN can be used to override this. The mobile app also tells parents what pieces of software their children have been accessing and for how long. Nintendo outline their parental controls here.

PlayStation

Parents can create a “sub account” (child account) after they’ve set up their own profile. When creating a child account the user must enter a birthdate which restricts the child from purchasing content above their age. Parents can set a monthly spending limit on the child account as well. You can find out how to create a child account here.

It’s also important to set up parental controls for non-digital content (such as disc-based games, DVDs and Blu-rays), as well as games that have already been downloaded to the console by another account. This can be done through the console itself. However each PlayStation console only allows one level of restriction for all of its users. Find out more here.

Steam

Parents are able to set up Family View in order to restrict material in their library on a case-by-case basis, and to decide whether kids have access to the online store. If you decide to give your children access to the online store, remember that Steam doesn’t keep track of users’ ages, and they can put in any birth date in order to access restricted content without further verification checks. A 4-digit PIN is used to leave Family View. Find out more here.

Xbox One

Unlike with PlayStation, Microsoft allows for different levels of restriction for different users. Once a Family Profile has been set up, parents can choose if they want to restrict access to apps and games by classification (such as G, PG, or R13). Find out more here.

Devices

Apple

Apple allows users to set up restrictions for TV shows, movies, and games. TV shows and movies use official NZ ratings. A passcode can be used in order to change the settings later on.

In addition to setting up restrictions for content like movies, TV shows and books, you can use restrictions to block or limit specific apps on mobile Apple devices.

Learn more about setting restrictions on iPhone and iPad.

Android

Parents can set up parental controls in the settings tab of an Android smartphone or tablet, which can restrict downloads and purchases based on Google’s rating system. You can learn more about Google’s parental controls for Android devices here.

Google also offer Family Link, an app parents can download onto their own phone (which links up to their children’s phones), which allows them to keep track of what apps they’re using and downloading. You can find out more about the app here

When you’re using a desktop PC/laptop, be sure to sign out of your Google account if your kids are going to use Google Play Movies without your supervision, or they may be able to purchase and view content using this account.

Internet surfing

Controls for internet content more generally are a little bit more difficult. Spark offers its customers Net Shield, a free internet filtering tool, and Vodafone has a tutorial on how to set up parental controls on their modems. If you're not with Spark or Vodafone, there are lots of other options out there, with software like NetNanny, SafeSurfer, Kaspersky Safe Kids, as well as hardware such as Clean Router.

If you're worried about who your young people are talking to online and what they might be showing them, Facebook has released Messenger Kids. This is a messaging app designed for parents to supervise who their rangatahi are talking to. It also allows parents to review images and videos that rangatahi have sent and received.

Non-technological alternatives

If all of that seems like too much, there are other things that you could try. However, if you want your tamariki and rangatahi to follow these suggestions, they are more likely to do so if you follow them yourself. Like most limitations and rules, they require consistency and communication to build trust with your young people.

Some ideas include:

  • No devices in the bedroom (rangatahi will still need a quiet space to do homework if they have it).
  • Designated device-free time zones, such as meal times and during face-to-face discussion. Or flip it, and have designated device time zones.
  • Limit screen time to a certain amount a day (there are apps for this as well).
  • No devices one hour before bed (whether you have put a blue light filter on or not).

To find out more about online safety in general, have a look at Netsafe's Online Safety Toolkit.

The world of parental controls is pretty complex, with each media platform offering different options for parents to guide their children’s viewing habits. Still, it’s great that parents have these options, and we recommend that parents take the time to work out how parental control options work – it’s worth it.

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