How to Manage New Media Before it Manages You

by Dick Rolfe, President/CEO – The Dove Foundation

Media are generally divided into two categories; news and entertainment. The traditional platforms have always been radio, television, newspapers, DVDs and theaters. But now the term has been updated and replaced with “New Media.” And “new” has been updated to include “Virtual” and “Cloud.”

These terms refer to the addition of the Internet and various services like Video On Demand (VOD) or Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD). For those who have an extensive library of DVD’s, Wal-Mart offers UltraViolet technology, a disc-to-digital service. You merely bring in your DVD collection and a clerk will hand you back your discs along with links to permanent “virtual cloud” copies of those very same movies. You can then watch them on almost any device with an internet connection. Cost is $2.00 Standard Definition, or $5.00 Hi Def. You can also perform these online transfers from your computer at home.

Due to unprecedented advancements in technology, the entire media landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade. With lightning fast internet speeds, streaming has become the most convenient retrieval system for movies and TV shows. The transition of daily newspapers to online editions and blogs is one example of that change. Another is the downturn in DVD sales which are being replaced by rental options like RedBox and DVDs by mail from Netflix. The other more convenient option is streaming video on demand. These services can be accessed over your cable or satellite TV provider like AT&T U-Verse, Comcast On Demand, Charter, DirectTV and Dish Network. But it also includes internet streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, and iTunes. Some of these services offer pay-per-view (PPV) options where you pay for each program or movie you watch. Other, more popular services charge modest monthly subscriptions which allow customers to binge on an unlimited number of movies for the equivalent price of renting a couple of DVDs.

I rarely use my DVR since I can stream my favorite TV shows on HULU and Network websites beginning the day after they air on TV. Netflix has thousands of feature films to choose from which are delivered over the internet in real time as I watch them. A big advantage to these services is that I don’t waste any computer memory storing movies since they are stored somewhere in the “cloud”, or so I’m told.

All of these new-fangled technologies are amazingly simple to operate. Kids are the most prolific users since these “new” technologies aren’t new to them at all. Which brings me to the one major caveat that parents can easily overlook. Since these movies are so accessible to us, they are also just as accessible to our children. Many of these streaming movie services have weak or no filtration systems to prevent our kids from choosing whatever they want. The only requirement is to input the customer’s login name and password. Beyond that flimsy wall, there is little to monitor our youngsters, or our own self-restraint from venturing into dark places, like the many NC-17 or “unrated” films laced with graphic scenes of nudity, sex, profanity, violence and other unsavory content. The following are parental control options from three of the top movie websites:

Netflix does have Parental Control Settings located within the Account Settings menu. However, it’s a one-size-fits-all option; meaning that you can set the criteria, but for only one of the following age groups: “Little Kids,” “Older Kids,” “Teens,” or “Adults.” This requires the customer to constantly change the settings to match the age of the viewers.

Vudu (Wal-mart’s online service) states the following: “We believe that parental controls are a very important aspect of our service. After setting a passcode, parents can place limits on children’s ability to browse, rent, buy, and/or play movies that fall within a certain rating or ratings.” They also suggest that parents use the parental controls on the devices they are using to watch movies. Easier said than done.

Hulu offers the following advice to parents in lieu of parental controls: “Users are required to be logged into an account and be at least 17 years of age in order to view mature content (films rated R, TV-MA shows) on Hulu. At this time, we do not have a setting that allows for more customized parental controls. The best suggestion we can offer is to log out of your Hulu account while watching with younger children; this will block mature content. You can also visit our Family or Kids page to browse for content that you and your family can watch together.”

Here’s the good news! When Dove approves a movie, the Seal applies to that title, wherever you may find it; whether on a DVD or Blu-Ray disc or a digital media platform. However, without the Dove Seal on the tangible package or in cover art, it becomes a bit more challenging to match title with a Dove review.

If you are confused by the MPAA ratings and frustrated by the accessibility of content that may be inappropriate for your kids, or that doesn’t meet your standards, CHECK THE DOVE REVIEW BEFORE SELECTING ANY MOVIE, REGARDLESS WHERE YOU RETRIEVE IT. The Dove team is talking to several mainstream content distributors about establishing a Dove category within their systems. However, right now, we have a safe recommendation for you that contains all the positive elements mentioned above (family-friendly content, Dove reviews attached)all in one place.

A new online SVOD service is being launched in the coming weeks. It’s called VIRCHOOSE. (meaning “choose virtue”). www.virchoose.com is a one-of-a-kind movie streaming service of quality, family-friendly and faith-friendly movies with one feature that distinguishes them from all the others. Every movie or children’s video has been approved for family viewing by The Dove Foundation. And, each title is accompanied by a thorough critique from a Dove reviewer. Every review includes an age appropriate Dove Seal to let you know if the movie is okay for ALL AGES, or better suited for viewers AGES 12 AND OVER. The VIRCHOOSE subscription will be only $6 .99 per month and will allow you to watch as many family-safe movies as you wish.

The best advice is to continue referring to the Dove reviews, no matter where you find your entertainment. We’re working to make them more accessible via syndication partners online. We also have a free iPhone App. And, if you type www.dove.org on your Android device, you’ll find our reviews in an easy-to-read format.

We’re committed to helping empower consumers who care about their values to make wise, informed choices. We hope you find these new aids helpful.