Yesterday I settled down to watch the latest Harry Potter film on DVD with my family. My nine-year-old is a big fan of the boy wizard, but we didn't go to see this one in the cinema because it was rated 12. But at home, with the lights up and mum and dad in the room, I'm prepared to give it a go and deal with anything inappropriate that comes up. And whilst the film did have its scary moments, I was surprised that it was rated 12 because overall it seemed quite tame.
Now a new product aims to make it easier for parents to filter their children's viewing for inappropriate content. A company called ClearPlay has released a new DVD player that skips past so-called "bad" scenes and mutes swear words.
In theory this means that your children are protected from inadvertent bad language and potentially upsetting content. But the device is also loaded with moral controversy.
Who's to say what constitutes inappropriate content? If I hand these decisions over to a machine, who's doing the parenting? How do you even set the standard for things like this? Many of my friends are happy for their children to use mild language such as "bloody" and "oh my God!" - but these are deemed inappropriate in my house. So would I need to crank the DVD-censorship up to maximum? But then I allow my six-year-old to watch PG and 12-rated movies, which I know many of his friends aren't allowed to. It strikes me that this just isn't a simple enough decision to outsource to a machine.
The censorship happens via a special USB stick. A membership to Clearplay is required, and once you're a member you can download a filter for each movie you want to watch onto the Clearplay USB stick. You simply plug this stick in when you're ready to watch that movie. Retailers Sewell claim that using this apparatus will help us attain "cool parent" status. Uh, I think you might want to reconsider that.
In any case, what about artistic integrity, and respecting the intentions of the film's director? Some films just aren't suitable for children, whether there's swearing or not. But then again, the times when I am able to sit down and watch a DVD all the way through with my children are quite rare, so sometimes they are watching films I haven't seen before. But I hope I can trust the latest Scooby Doo cartoon to be inoffensive.
What do you think? Is this DVD player a useful tool for parents? Would you use it?
Source [ParentDish US]