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New Netflix Rewards System Could Train Children to Binge Watch

A child advocacy group is claiming that the "patches" are rewarding bad viewing habits.


A child advocacy group is expressing concerns with a new Netflix effort that, essentially, rewards kids for binge watching.

The streaming platform is currently testing “patches” — digital images that kids can receive after finishing, say, Trollhunter, Fuller House, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. The program essentially incentivizes streaming for kids and The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is not happy. 

The CFCC, a non-profit that aims to end child-targeted marketing, believes that the patches will turn kids into “lobbyists and undermine parents’ limits.”

“Children like to collect things,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of the CCFC. “It’s just incredible to me that as we’re having this national conversation about the persuasive design of tech and how tech is often designed for the benefit of tech companies at the expense of users well-being, that Netflix would test something like this.”

While the group feels that the move will encourage less-than-ideal viewing habits in children, Netflix insists that it’s all in good fun.

“We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectible items for a more interactive experience, adding an element of fun and providing kids something to talk about and share around the titles they love,” said a Netflix spokesperson in an interview with Gizmodo. “We learn by testing and this feature may or may not become part of the Netflix experience.”

There’s certainly something unsettling with the new program. When companies like Netflix incentivize kids’ binge-watching, they’re not only making kids more likely to sit in front of a screen but also have their viewing habits studied for marketing purposes. The CCFC also strongly opposed Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, for similar reasons. The more kids are subconsciously drawn into spending time in front of a screen, the more likely they are to have genuine trouble stepping away from it. Some experts have even compared screen addiction to cigarette smoking, in that it’s already a problem by the time people learn that it’s dangerous.

Kids who are exposed to screens are more vulnerable at younger and younger ages,” said Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a screen time expert, in an interview with Fatherly. “High screen-diet kids’ raised on iPads are more prone to develop addictive types of behaviors on screens.”

Ironically, the introduction of the patches comes just about a week after Netflix unveiled a handful of new parental controls.