Remember the family hour? For a short time in the mid-1970s, the three major networks determined that television shows airing between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. should be restricted to those with family-friendly content. It disappeared by court order in 1977, but for many years, networks voluntarily stuck to the policy.
Obviously, this has long since gone away.
Nearly half a century later, network TV is no longer our only media source, and, although parental controls allow families to restrict content options, no broadcast policy exists to ensure that programming at any time of day is G-rated. But, as with so many other things, there’s an app for that ... or a streaming service.
ClearPlay, VidAngel and more ...
Services like ClearPlay and VidAngel Entertainment allow viewers to automatically alter PG- and R-rated content streamed from other platforms into family-friendly viewing, by skipping or muting objectionable content.
Subscribers may apply filters for features like language and violence, so they can enjoy the actors and the plot without cringing at aspects they find offensive.
While ClearPlay limits itself to movies, VidAngel Entertainment offers original content as well, including Dry Bar Comedy, “the world’s largest library of clean comedy," and The Chosen, the online series about the life of Jesus (more about that here).
Currently, VidAngel filters content on Netflix, Amazon, Amazon Prime, Movies Anywhere and Amazon's HBO Channel.
Also committed to wholesome content are streaming services like Pure Flix and UP Faith & Family. Neither is limited to movies, and both seem to be continually expanding their offerings to include original programming and TV series as well. Rather than providing filters, both of these services have created a library of programs already suitable for family viewing.
A World of Catholic Content at Formed
But, if you’re looking for a strictly Catholic resource, Formed provides one-stop shopping. A product of the Augustine Institute, Formed is truly a Catholic media resource, living up to the promise of its slogan, “The Catholic Faith. On demand.”
Formed doesn’t aim to filter or congregate existing mainstream content. Instead, it offers already curated original video, audio and books, along with resources for parishes.
Offerings for the younger set are both fun and educational (The Slugs and Bugs Show, Brother Francis, The Saints & Heroes Collection), and parents can browse age-appropriate selections in the “Top Recommendations” section of the app.
Offerings for the rest of the family include Bible studies, documentaries and a series on the Sacraments, with similar options available to parishes as well.
How to Deal With the Rest
Not sure where to start? Check your existing streaming services. Searching platforms like Xfinity, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Discovery+, Paramount+, Peacock, Apple TV +, etc., can give you a good sense of each service’s offerings and features, not to mention helping you figure out what’s most cost-effective. Many services offer a free trial period, so you can get a good sense of whether the programming is worth the monthly fee.
Many also offer options for parental controls and the option to create separate profiles for younger members of the family. These can allow you to let kid browse these services and still avoid adult-oriented content.
While the family hour may be a relic of the 1970s, services like these can give every family the tools they need to create viewing that’s not only family-friendly, but personalized to taste as well.
One Last Piece of Advice
Just because content carries a known kid brand -- like Disney or Nickelodeon -- is no guarantee that controversial content hasn't found its way in. These shows are produced by adults, and some of them are determined to use kid venues to service their ideologies.
Lisa Hess describes herself as: Transplanted Jersey girl. Author. Organizational work-in-progress. Kid advocate & defender of emerging adults. Inveterate procrastinator. Follow her blog here.