Netflix has come under fire for experimenting with collectable stickers for children that parents worry could encourage binge-watching.
The video streaming service has been testing “patches” that viewers earn by watching episodes of children’s TV series.
The stickers, which are only being tested on some users, appear specifically aimed at young viewers, with rewards for shows like “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “Trolls” and “The Magic School Bus”.
Netflix claims the test is to add an “element of fun” to kids watching TV, although child advocates contend it exploits children and undermines parents controlling TV time.
Professor Sonia Livingstone, head of the parenting for a digital future project at the London School of Economics, told the Telegraph while stickers and rewards had long been used to reinforce positive behaviour, like star charts in schools, Netflix’s test only benefits the streaming site.
“Here’s Netflix trading on behaviours developed to benefit children, only now it seems to benefit Netflix,” professor Livingstone said. “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.”
Parents criticised the new feature. One Twitter user complained to Netflix: “As if getting my son to stop watching Netflix wasn’t hard enough. Now I have to deal with him wanting to binge endless hours of shows just to earn a silly patch?”