The Apple TV's Restrictions Feature Needs a UX Redesign

Since I have three kids (at the time of writing this they're 1.5, 4.5 and 6 years old), the Apple TV is a great little box for them to operate considering the easy-to-use remote control. But there is one significant problem: the age restrictions feature of the parental controls.

If you don't have any young kids, you've probably never had any reason to turn this feature on. It basically lets you choose which movie rating is allowed without entering a four digit passcode.

Problem 1

This setting also applies to the apps available on Apple TV, which in theory is a good thing. Here in Sweden, the two biggest TV networks SVT and TV4 have their apps available and they both have a section for kids. So what happens when my kids want to watch some of the kids' TV shows?

Well, when they start the app they are immediately presented with the passcode screen… Let me repeat, they cannot access the kids' TV shows without entering the passcode, which in turn lets them access all shows.

Problem 2

Let's say that I have a lot of movies, some with cover arts that really aren't appropriate for kids. When you browse the movie list, all movies are listed even if you have turned on the restriction feature. It's not until they actually choose a movie that the passcode screen is shown. That means that I either have to remove the movies from my Mac mini iTunes share (that's the computer that my Apple TV uses) or change the cover art to something more appropriate for kids.

Problem 3

Having all movies visible, even if they're not matching the allowed movie rating, makes the movie list very cluttered for a young kid. They can never be sure which movie to pick, and getting the passcode screen when choosing the "wrong" movie can get pretty annoying.

So what's the suggested solution?

The first thing that I would implement is a "switch" to turn on and off the restrictions. Per default, I would always have the restrictions turned on when booting/waking up the Apple TV. To indicate that restrictions are on, an icon should be visible in the upper right or left corner.

To turn them off, you could either navigate to that icon or press down two buttons simultaneously and then enter the passcode.

To turn them back on, you could do the same as when turning them off, but you shouldn't be required to enter the passcode.

When the restrictions are turned on, all movies that don't meet the set restrictions are to be hidden from the movie list.

If you open an app, like the Swedish SVT or TV4 app, it shouldn't require a passcode, and it should only show TV shows that meet the set restrictions.

I truly believe that if Apple make these changes the Apple TV will be a lot easier for kids to use and also keep the parents happier.

If you have any comments, feel free to contact me via the links in the header.

by Stefan Laketa