Netflix Pulls the Plug on Feature Designed to Get Kids Addicted to Netflix

By Yohana Desta

Courtesy of Netflix.

Netflix will never stop finding new ways to make its users even more obsessed with Netflix. The streaming platform has largely succeeded in that goal simply by releasing engaging content (hit shows like Stranger Things, for example), not to mention easily facilitating binge-watching and closely studying viewer habits in order to always suggest the perfect next show or movie. But the company’s latest idea—a feature that essentially gamified binge-watching for children—veered diabolical, infuriating parents who don’t want their kids even more addicted to television.

After testing the feature and enduring a sharp round of backlash, Netflix has announced that it will no longer reward kids for spending extra time on Netflix. However, there’s nothing keeping the company from introducing a similar feature aimed at adults, especially since the company blatantly tells its investors that its competitors aren’t just other streaming platforms, but rather literally anything viewers do in their leisure time that is not watching Netflix—quite literally including “going out to dinner with friends or enjoying a glass of wine with their partner, just to name a few.”

“We’ve concluded the test for patches and have decided not to move forward with the feature for kids,” a spokesperson said, according to Variety. “We test lots of things at Netflix in order to learn what works well—and what doesn’t work well—for our members.”

The patch tests were first reported Friday, when Netflix confirmed that it was in fact testing what would happen if it rewarded viewers for finishing a large batch of episodes of a children’s show (A Series of Unfortunate Events, for example). Per Variety, the reward did not unlock any specific prizes or secret content—it was simply a digital badge, a virtual good-for-you-now-watch-this-next-episode gesture of sorts. Somewhere in there is a potentially innocent attempt to add an engaging element to the zombie-like state of binge-watching—but it’s buried under the fact that today’s kids are already addicted to screens, even without the promise of getting bonus points for their viewing habits.

As Variety previously reported, there were plenty of parents who disliked the concept, claiming it encouraged kids to get hooked on TV. Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Gizmodo that the feature was “designed to turn kids into lobbyists and undermine parents’ limits.”

“It’s just incredible to me that as we’re having this national conversation about 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,” he continued.

Netflix, it would appear, has heard everyone’s feedback loud and clear. Meanwhile, Count Olaf is busy dreaming up the next test idea.

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