About In-Flight Entertainment and Parental Guidance

On: May 8, 2014


So, you settle down in your comfortable economy class seat with a child on each side, all-set for a super-exciting 9 hour flight to the other side of the ocean. Mine are 12 and 10, energetic as any 12 and 10 year olds should be. So, you see why I am all anticipatory about them being bound to one place for almost half a day, right next to me.

Thankfully, kids these days are sufficiently screen-enamoured that you can give them anything LCD and they’ll stay glued to it, unwilling to move. Helpfully, most international/long flights give you, your own personal LCD monitor to tinker around with, watch movies/TV shows/play games and so on.

Impatiently waiting for the safety instructions to be done with, the kids plunge into the sea of choices. And well, I into mine. I like the idea of catching up on “Dallas Buyers Club“. The kids are comfortable and I tuck myself in too — looking forward to quality time with Matthew McConaughey.

And bam! The movie starts with a ba… well, a pretty X-rated scene. Now, I understanded the tiny, in-flight LCD monitor is positioned in such a way that the person sitting beside you would have to squint real hard. Even so, these are my little kids sitting beside me. Reminder — they are 12 and 10.

Of course, the first question that came to mind was what if they picked this or a similar film to watch for themselves? I couldn’t possibly keep a 9 x 60 watch on them. That would be plain creepy.

A little poking around and it turns out there is a parental control option. The point is, or rather the points are:

  •  This particular plane of this particular airline has the “Parental Control” option. Not sure if all airplanes have it. What if a parent doesn’t figure out the “Parental Control” option? It is not the most intuitive thing to look for or find.
  • It’s not just sex, it’s the violence too, right? What if kids chance upon a brutal murder on Game of Thrones while walking up and down the aisle. Some of these are pretty intense.

One of the most brutal scenes from Game of Thrones

  • Since larger matters loom, I am not even getting into how it’d play out if you were sitting beside your boss or ummm…an in-law?
  • What about when there is no personal screen and you have common monitor right over your head?

The technology that I was looking at to provide me peace of mind was clearly taking it away.

Who is to be held responsible here? Me as a parent of course? But, was any thought paid to this at all when the programs/movies were picked for in-flight entertainment?

A quick online search tells me that in-flight entertainment is not regulated, so it is the airline’s prerogative. Turns out, some airlines edit the content for profanity and some types of mature content, but many don’t. Anyway, such censorship is its own bag of worms. Some airlines argue that even if they controlled or censored the content they screened there was no way to control what other people watched on their personal digital devices. Fair point.

As it so happens, under US Federal law introduced some seven years ago,

Airlines that show adult-themed movies on overhead screens would be required to create seating sections to shield children from graphic content.

But I haven’t seen this being implemented anywhere. I couldn’t find much more information about the current status of this legislation either. And anyway, that’s just one country.

This is not necessarily a simple question to answer. Other than parenting questions that this one leads to, from the airlines point of view, who should the airlines listen to? Parents of young kids or adults who don’t mind graphic content? Why should they listen to one group and not the other? The mother of all questions, of course must be, is it cost-effective for them to do whatever needs to be done.

No simple answers, only important questions. I leave you with this incident from last year where a flight was re-routed because a family complained about the in-flight content.

Meeta Kabra

Meetu is a Chartered Accountant and an MBA but she’d rather not keep books or run a business. She deployed her analytical skills to reviewing movies instead and, along the way, rediscovered her sense of humor. By doing this she gets to exploit both her love for movies and writing. She took it upon herself to write reviews, "Without Giving the Movie Away" @ Wogma. She also writes short stories and poems at Minus i.

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