Netflix Party – what is it and is it safe for kids?
Part of the fun of watching television is the sense of togetherness you get when other people are watching too.
As we grapple with COVID-19, a lot of us will be turning for light relief to our favourite TV shows and films. But streaming services don’t always give the sense of community we once got from watching terrestrial TV all at the same time.
As a result, people have leapt gratefully onto Netflix Party: a way to synchronize your viewing with other people.
What is it?
Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension which promises “a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online”. While the extension has been around for a while, it’s become much more popular in recent days, as people have found themselves increasingly cut off. As cinemas, theatres, bars and restaurants shut their doors, Netflix Party allows you to sync your viewing with other people and provides a ‘group chat’ function so you can all comment on what you’re watching.
How does it work?
It’s a Google Chrome extension, a small software program that customises your browsing experience - in this case, enabling you to watch your favourite show with your friends and family on desktop computers and laptops.
To download it, you need to either to create or login to your Google account, then visit the Netflix Party website and click ‘Install Netflix Party’ in the top right-hand corner - or alternatively, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for it.
Once you’ve added Netflix Party to your Chrome browser, log in to your Netflix account and click on the show or film you want to watch.
Click on the NP logo in the top right-hand corner of your browser. You’ll see a drop-down menu.
Click on ‘Start the party’ and it will give you a shareable URL that you can circulate with your party guests.
Is it any good?
The extension is easy to download and use, so even less tech-savvy members of the family can enjoy it. It offers the chance to watch great shows and movies with others, even when you’re apart.
On the downside, the user interface, particularly the chat function, only works for one user at a time - so if several of you are watching on the same device, only one person at a time can pitch in with comments. You can, however, have multiple members of the same family signed in one account, but on different devices – there’s no need to have an account each.
Is it child-friendly?
Whether or not a child can install Netflix Party will depend on what version of Chrome they’re using. The Child version – which is the one accessed via Google’s Family Link service – doesn’t allow extensions, so Netflix Party will be off limits to those using it. If a child is on the standard version of Chrome, however, there’s nothing stopping them installing it.
Although you have to be sent the access link to join a Netflix Party, anyone with the link can copy and distribute it. And because the extension also works on Netflix’s child-friendly version of the platform, a child could potentially use the chat function with others who’ve gained access to the viewing event, without their parent’s permission.
It’s important to discuss with your child that they should always think before they share - and to stay vigilant about who they are talking to online.
Setting boundaries around who’s allowed to join a Netflix Party will add some family reassurance that only selected individuals can take part in the fun.
Netflix Party does require a Netflix account. And it’s a bit frustrating if several people are using the same device and each of them wants to comment.
Given the current coronavirus crisis, though, Netflix Party is a helpful way to stay in touch with friends and family without constantly having to force conversation – particularly your children are old enough to be using the full version of Chrome. In these difficult times, it’s an easy way to do something relaxing and fun together.