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Netflix quietly rolls out rewards for children who regularly view shows, sparking fears they could encourage binge-watching

  • Netflix feature provides a 'patch' as a reward to children for watching TV
  • The trial of the reward system is currently only available to a few users 
  • Patches are only on Netflix originals and are aimed at children 
  • Customers believe this system could encourage binge-watching

Netflix has quietly rolled out a feature that rewards children for binge-watching TV shows.

Users of the streaming service have noticed that certain shows now come with 'patches' that viewers collect after watching specific episodes.

Reaction to the patches has been mixed, with some people confused as to what they are for and others believing they encourage children to watch too much TV.

Some are concerned over the 'gamification' of the streaming service, by incorporating elements of video game design to get young people addicted to the service.

Some users have noticed that certain Netflix shows now come with 'patches' that viewers achieve when watching specific episodes. The patches are found on Netflix's own shows that are aimed at children

Some users have noticed that certain Netflix shows now come with 'patches' that viewers achieve when watching specific episodes. The patches are found on Netflix's own shows that are aimed at children

The patches are found on Netflix's own shows that are aimed at children.   

Eligible shows are marked with red locks for users who are part of the test.

Twitter user Brian Buffington said: 'Netflix has gamified TV watching by offering 'patches' to children who watch their shows. 

'I love micro-credentials, but for watching Rugrats and Care Bears…geez.'  

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Trolls and Fuller House are some of the programmes included in the trial.

Professor Sonia Livingstone, head of the parenting for a digital future project at the London School of Economics, told the Telegraph that although stickers have long been used to reward children, this test from Netflix only benefits the streaming site. 

She said: 'Here's Netflix trading on behaviours developed to benefit children, only now it seems to benefit Netflix.

'It's not clear that their innovation is in children's best interests, and given parental concerns about screen time is unlikely to be welcomed by parents.' 

The feature is still in the testing stage, and the site has yet to say if patches will stick around.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Trolls and Fuller House are some of the shows included in the trial. Eligible shows are being marked with red locks for users who are part of the test

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Trolls and Fuller House are some of the shows included in the trial. Eligible shows are being marked with red locks for users who are part of the test

Most users appear to be confused by the sudden, unannounced appearance of the new feature

Most users appear to be confused by the sudden, unannounced appearance of the new feature

Netflix told Variety: 'We are testing a new feature on select kids titles that introduces collectable items for a more interactive experience, adding an element of fun and providing kids something to talk about and share around the titles they love,' a spokesman for the firm said.

'We learn by testing and this feature may or may not become part of the Netflix experience.' 

The shows chosen by the Scotts Valley, California, company are all its own content, called Netflix originals.

Twitter user Lewis Reilly asked the California-based streaming giant if the platform had added rewards for watching TV

Twitter user Lewis Reilly asked the California-based streaming giant if the platform had added rewards for watching TV

Once the patches have been collected, there is no extra content available to view or behind-the scenes footage

Once the patches have been collected, there is no extra content available to view or behind-the scenes footage

Apart from the buzz of collecting a novelty sticker for watching a certain episode or completing a series, the patches serve no other purpose.

Once they have been collected, there is no additional content or behind-the scenes footage to watch.

Despite Netflix claiming that the patches merely add a more engaging aspect for younger viewers, the gamification of the service has received criticism from many.

Research has found that youngsters today spend more time in front of a screen than ever before.

Children already spend nearly three hours every day using a screen of some description. 

One user threatened to cancel their subscription should the patches stick around as it is thought the TV watching reward system encourages binge-watching amongst children 

One user threatened to cancel their subscription should the patches stick around as it is thought the TV watching reward system encourages binge-watching amongst children 

Twitter user @videograveyard suggested that 'the only 'patch' a kid needs is one made of grass instead of sitting in front of a TV for hours.' The criticism of the trial is that it sets a bad precedent for the young and impressionable viewers 

Twitter user @videograveyard suggested that 'the only 'patch' a kid needs is one made of grass instead of sitting in front of a TV for hours.' The criticism of the trial is that it sets a bad precedent for the young and impressionable viewers 

Concern focuses around the increased encouragement for children to watch even more television. Research has found that youngsters of today spend more time in front of a screen than ever before

Concern focuses around the increased encouragement for children to watch even more television. Research has found that youngsters of today spend more time in front of a screen than ever before

Concern focuses around the increased encouragement for children to watch even more television.

Most users appear to be confused by the sudden, unannounced appearance of the new feature, if social media is anything to go by.

Twitter user Lewis Reilly asked the California-based streaming firm if the platform had added rewards for watching TV.

However, some have taken a more serious stance. 

One user threatened to cancel their subscription should the patches stick around. 

Another suggested that 'the only 'patch' a kid needs is one made of grass instead of sitting in front of a TV for hours.'

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT CHILDREN'S MEDIA HABITS?

Childwise is an independent market research agency specialising in children and young people.

The Norwich based organisation has a programme of published independent research and also conducts research for government agencies, charities, broadcasters, publishers and brands.

The Monitor Report 2018 covers children and their media, TV viewing, music, reading, cinema, children’s equipment, money, purchasing, sports & activities, health & well-being and social awareness.

Around 2,000 children aged five to 16 in schools across the UK took part in the survey, answering questions on topics as varied as their favourite apps, what they spend money on, sports they play, and their worries and concerns.

It found that they spend 2.6 hours a day watching programmes, video and short clips, compared to 2.5 hours last year.

Most children now use devices other than a traditional television set to watch video content.

YouTube remains the top way of watching on-demand content.

Children age nine to 16 spend an average of 2.7 hours online a day. 

This has dropped over the last three years and is down from 2.9 hours last year. 

However, this fall could be a consequence of children being less able to determine which of their routine activities are carried out online or offline.

Children are also taking to virtual reality with 25 per cent having mobile VR equipment at home.

Of these, 11 per cent have Playstation VR, 10 per cent have Oculus Rift and six per cent have HTC Vive.

Binge watching content is also a growing habit. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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