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ROKU TV Streaming:
What Parents Need To Know!!!

Have you fired your cable company lately? Many people are either shifting from traditional cable TV service to Internet-based streaming services such as NETFLIX and HULU+, or they are supplementing their cable services with these new technologies.

A popular device that enables access to hundreds of programs is called: ROKU

Now, this is a great product, but it is not without some (manageable) risks.  What do you need to know before turning your family loose with Roku?


First off, let’s talk about how Roku works.

You start out with your purchase a Roku device (there are several models) and then take it home and set it up.  That is the only Roku-RELATED cost of using Roku.  It is just a device, like your TV, that can provide access to various channels.  You do not have to subscribe to anything to use it, especially since there is a lot of free stuff available.

But, if you want certain channels, like NETFLIX or HULU+ or VUDU, then you have to pay, but you pay the channels, not Roku, through subscribing to the channel.  As I write this there are 700+ channels, with more arriving all the time.These channels fall into two categories: Public and Private.PUBLIC CHANNELS:   These are the ones in the ROKU Channel Store that anyone can access. You just need a Roku account.  Some are free, some are not. For example:  If you install the NETFLIX channel you will still need a NETFLIX account to access the content.  The Channel Store can be accessed HERE or on your TV.  Some Channels (and some games) do have a small “install” cost, often <$5.00.PRIVATE CHANNELS: These are channels that can be set up on your device but which are NOT listed in the Channel Store.  A channel may be “private” for one of several reasons:

  • It is in a “test phase” and is not yet ready for public access.
  • It contains inappropriate content that is for the Channel Store, such as adult-oriented channels.
  • It contains private programming, such as when a corporate channel is used to offer training for employees, or for school courses.

Instead of choosing the channel in the Channel Store, a private channel is accessed via a special code that you input into your Roku set up or on the MANAGE ACCOUNT screen, online at www.roku.com

These codes are mostly found online although I would wager that kids share knowledge of them just like we shared Miss July.  They may be available on an adult web site (say, the code for a porn channel might be available on its corresponding web site), or they may be on any of the many lists of private channels that are available online.

The adult entertainment industry has latched onto Roku with a vengeance!  While most require subscriptions there are a number of adult channels that are completely free, just like online porn sites.

And this is where our kids can get into trouble: They find out about these channels and install them!  Parents would only know about their installation if you looked at all your installed channels via the Roku box, or if you monitored your account via the MANAGE YOUR ACCOUNT section, online.

Or maybe not….

Example of “Discreet Icons” for adult channels

A number of the porn channels offer two separate codes:

  • One code provides access to the channel and has an icon that denotes who and what the channel is, and
  • The other code provides the same access to the channel, but this one is associated with a more discreet icon and descriptions, like “Spreadsheet Tutorials“.

So, what does a parent do to protect their kids?

    1. When you first set up your Roku device you should install your first round of channels and then change the Roku settings to require a PIN Number for adding any more channels.  You can do this online by going to your  MY ACCOUNT section.  Remember, do NOT use easy PINs like 1234, 5555, 9876, etc..  Also, you wait until after the initial set-up so that you don’t have to keep inputting the PIN for every channel.
      .
    2. If your Roku has already been in use for a while and it is possible that someone could have added an inappropriate channel, then you need to go through your Roku channel listing and test everything that is not a major channel (like NETFLIX or HULU+).  Look for “innocuous-sounding” channels, like the above-mentioned SPREADSHEET TUTORIALS.  And, don’t forget to set the PIN for adding new channels.  Also, make sure you check all of your accounts that you subscribe to for the availability of Parental Controls.  They are often access via the web site and not via the actual on-TV service. (ex: NETFLIX only provides access to great parental controls via the web.)
      .
    3. If you find an inappropriate channel: DO NOT EXPLODE OR PANIC!  Your child may not have installed it.  The culprit could be an adult in the home or a neighbor kid.  Instead, identify the culprit and, if it is a child, take a few minutes/hours to calm down and plan out your discussion with them.The following Blog articles might help:
      .
      HELP! My Child Hit A Porn Site! What Do I Do NOW????
      “My 4 Year-Old Rented A Porn Movie!!!”
      Pornography: A Sin?
      Pornography: Spiritual Battleground
      .
    4. Check your PURCHASE HISTORY online and investigate any channels you do not recognize or think that someone would really want…..like “SPREADSHEET TUTORIALS“.

GOOD NEWS:  If you have read my previous articles on OpenDNS and have implemented that as a filter, then it will be much more difficult for kids to access the web sites that give them the codes to add an adult private channel or which allow them to “subscribe” to the content.  That is not true in all cases, but, by-and-large, it is an effective means of preventing access to adult web site and Roku channels.  You can find PART 1 of my latest OpenDNS series right HERE.

Remember, tho’:  Set up a PIN for adding channels and DO NOT SHARE IT!

Keep in mind that some “good” channels offer more adult-oriented fare.  NETFLIX, for example, has movies that are rated R and NC-17, and TV shows rated TV-MA.  For this reason, make sure you check out the parental controls for each channel you subscribe to!

Roku is an awesome device. Because of all that it offers our family has trimmed our Cable TV selection to “local channels only” and primarily use streaming for “the good shows”.

But, as with cars, blenders, and other items around the house, parents need to keep the kids safe.  Fortunately, as we’ve seen, it is not that hard.

Keep checking this blog for upcoming posts about streaming TV services such as  HULU+, VUDU, and other services.

For more information about ROKU and its products just click HERE.

Check out these other popular posts:

 

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7 comments to ROKU TV Streaming:
What Parents Need To Know!!!

  • Lynda,

    While I haven’t tested every different ROKU device (A bigger R&D budget is needed for that!), it is my understanding that each of the ROKU STICKS works the same in terms of adding channels and locking things out. Keep in mind that, if you want more than Pureflix (say, for Mom & Dad’s TV) you will need a separate ROKU device, and create a separate ROKU account to configure it.

    Personally, I would get the least expensive, keeping in mind special features such as 4K, etc.

    Thanks, again, for visiting BLOGGING THE KNIGHTS’ QUEST. Be sure to LIKE our Facebook page and share some of our posts and articles!

  • Lynda Goodman

    Thank you SO much for your answer. One more thing. There are tons of Roku Sticks. How do I know which one to get if we’re only going to use it for Pureflix?

  • Dear Lynda,

    Yes, you can configure and lock the Roku so that your family can only use Pureflix. Here is how:

    FIRST: Restrict the ability to add channels to the ROKU.

    1. Log into your Roku account at owner.roku.com
    2. Under PIN PREFERENCE, select “Update”.
    3. Select: “A PIN is required when using your Roku account to make purchase or add any item from the Channel Store.”
    4. Enter a 4-digit PIN that you’ll be able to remember, and then save changes. DO NOT use an easy-to-remember or easy-to-figure-out PIN, such as 9876 or 1379, etc. Don’t use birthdays/anniversaries, either.

    Now, your PIN will be required to add any item from the channel store.

    SECOND: Delete all channels except PUREFLIX. Some channels you may want to keep, such as weather, etc.. (Yes, this may take a few minutes.)

    Now you should have your ROKU configured so that PUREFLIX is the only content streaming service on your box, and your PIN will be required to add any other channels.

    Note that if you have more than one ROKU they each have the same channels when signed into the same account. But, you can move channels to different positions in case you want to “hide” a channel. Just move it to the bottom.

    ONE LAST THING: It might be a good idea while on your ACCOUNT screen to scroll down and look at the MY LINKED DEVICES section. You can rename any devices to make it easier to tell which is which (Upstairs Roku, Downstairs Roku, etc.). You can also see if “someone” may have added a device you don’t recognize. This sometimes happens when children “share” their parent’s account.

    You may also find this article helpful in securing your home network: Filter Your Home Network…for FREE!!!

    Thanks for reading the blog! Please like us on Facebook, and share links to our blog on Facebok and other social media! And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog or our Knights Quest TV Channel on YouTube!

    Buddy

    (And sorry to the delay in responding. The flu caught me!)

  • Lynda Goodman

    We want to purchase a Roku solely for the purpose of subscribing to Pureflix and only Pureflix. Can we passcode lock the Roku so that it is exclusively for Pureflix?

  • Suzanne,

    I appreciate your concern and frustration, and applaud your efforts to protect your children!!!

    We have not found a way to remove a ROKU channel from the list of channels in the store, just how to uninstall a channel that is already installed, or how to prevent it’s installation through the use of the PIN, which you have already set up. I have recently rechecked ROKU, and the PIN remains the only means of parental control.

    On the plus side (if you can call it that) the pictures in the screenshots still only show women in swimsuits. It may, depending on your children’s ages, be that this particular channel’s screenshots could be the basis for a discussion to show how women are objectified and how that violates your family’s values. Plus, you can use it as an illustration of how companies use our visual senses to entice and entrap us. Then you could extend the discussion to discuss the “worse material” that you are protecting the children from, laying a foundation for considering “adult” material to be unsafe and harmful. Again, this would depend on the age of the children.

    THANK YOU for taking such interest in protecting your children! You are not alone in the fight!

    Buddy Knight
    Director
    Knights’ Quest Ministries

  • Suzanne

    Roku added a Bikini Patrol channel that is just blatantly in the store. It’s soft core porn. Is there any way to hide channels in the store? We have a pin set up to install channels, but they could go look at the screenshots if they noticed it.

  • Tim

    Hi, and thank you for your article. One thing that I would like to recommend is Norton ConnectSafe DNS. It is free like OpenDNS, but has a much, much better filtering system. Believe me, I have tested the both extensively. Anyway.. just thought I’d thank you and make that suggestion.

    Tim

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