A Parents' Guide to the Best Streaming Services for Families

From Disney+ to Amazon Prime, we broke down the pros and cons of the most popular streaming platforms with parents in mind so you can streamline (pun intended) your family's services for 2020.

The way we consume media is constantly evolving, as parents might know better than anyone. These days, more and more households are relying on streaming services for their entertainment. A study released in March 2019, commissioned by business-to-consumer digital services monetization company Vindicia from nScreenMedia, found that 70 percent of U.S. households have at least one subscription. And the average American subscriber watches 3.4 services.

While it can be incredibly easy—and actually not all that costly, given that the average cost of each service is $8.53 per month—to subscribe to multiple streaming services, parents might want to streamline in an effort to choose the ones that are an especially good fit for their families.

Here, the Parents.com guide to each popular streaming service's perks for parents, perks for kids, safety pros and cons, and more.

Streaming Services Disney Plus Hulu Netflix
Courtesy of Disney+; Hulu; Netflix


Since launching on November 12, families have been wild for the new Disney+ streaming platform, which provides consumers with a central hub for films and television series produced by The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Television, along with offerings from Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, and Star Wars brands. "This platform has been long awaited by Disney families looking for one convenient place to access all of their favorite shows and movies, and it’s become instantly popular with kids of all ages," says Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark.

You can enjoy Disney+ on a bevy of devices, as it is available through web streaming, on iOS devices, Android mobile devices, Amazon devices, Chromecast, Chromebook, smart TVs, Roku devices, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Plus, if you have more than one active viewer in the household, no problem: Users can simultaneously stream from up to four different devices and have unlimited downloads for up to 10 devices.

Perks for parents

Nostalgia: Becky Beach, a mom, tech expert, and founder of MomBeach.com says that while Disney+ has mostly kid's content, nostalgic parents will love the out-of-the-vault Disney movies too. A few examples: The Sandlot, Newsies, and '90s shows like Boy Meets World.

Cool new content: In reality series Encore!, executive producer Kristen Bell will give grown-ups a second shot at high school. And in The World According to Jeff Goldblum, the Jurassic Park star explores a whole range of random topics from ice cream to tattoos to sneakers.

Perks for kids

Kid-friendly content: "Content on Disney+ is relatively safe compared to some of the other streaming platforms, as there is no programming rated higher than PG-13," Jordan notes.

All the Disney titles they're obsessed with: It's their one-stop shop for titles you know they'll gladly watch a million times over like Frozen, Moana, and Tangled.

Cons to consider

Overly basic parental controls: "In terms of parental controls, parents can create separate profiles for their children through the Disney+ app," Jordan says. But she points that these settings are not locked by a parent-created PIN code, so it’s easy to work around for kids looking to watch more mature content. And according to Common Sense Media's review, the parent controls might be too simplistic for parents looking to implement more nuanced settings for multiple kids of different ages.

And the cost?

Disney+ costs $6.99 per month, or you can opt for a bundle including Disney+ along with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month. Get more details here.

Amazon Prime Video

A 13-year-old service that has shifted and evolved over time, Amazon Prime Video has a ton of content—some that's family-friendly, and some that's definitely not. Some titles are free, while others are only available for rent or purchase.

Amazon Prime Video is available on web browsers and has an app that can be downloaded on various streaming devices, including Roku, XBox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Wii U. It can also be accessed on smartphones and tablets.

Perks for parents

Parental controls: Amazon allows parents to set restrictions of a certain rating level on a per-device basis, according to Common Sense Media. The method to set controls may vary based on device, in particular on Fire devices and Xbox One. Although kids can't access restricted content without the parental control PIN, they can read descriptions and see movie images on preview screens that may not be appropriate. Parents can also add a PIN to prevent unauthorized purchases. "I can enable parental controls on Amazon Prime with ease so my 4-year-old can't watch anything mature," says Beach.

Endless content for adults: From holiday classics like It's a Wonderful Life to Prime originals series like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon has a wide array of films and shows that parents can enjoy during their own screen time.

Family movie night made easier: Families can curate their own watch lists of movies to make decision-making easier on movie night.

Perks for kids

YouTube content crossover: "Amazon Prime has several videos from YouTube creators on its streaming service," Beach says. "My child is addicted to Blippi on YouTube, so I was pleased to find many Blippi videos on Amazon. I have deleted my child's YouTube app from his tablet due to concerns of inappropriate content appearing on the app. He has since enjoyed watching Amazon Prime for his videos of choice."

Cons to consider

Parental controls could use improvement: Common Sense Media says that Prime Video's parental controls are OK but would be better if you could block objectionable video content from appearing at all in a "kid mode," as well as block specific titles and not just ratings categories.

And the cost?

Amazon Prime Video is available for free for Prime Members who pay $12.99 per month. You get a selection of "included with Prime" titles as part of an Amazon Prime membership, but access to specific Prime Video Channels have an additional subscription cost. There are also a slew of individual movie options available on a rent or buy basis, which vary in pricing from $3.99 to $9.99 a pop. Get more details here.


One of the most popular online streaming services in the U.S., with more than 100 million subscribers, Netflix is loved by people of all ages for its vast collection of films, TV shows, documentaries, and more. The service is also knocking it out of the park with family-friendly original series Stranger Things and Riverdale, as well as award-winning shows for adults like The Crown. "Parents and kids can grow closer together by watching many of these shows, as they provide opportunities to understand each other’s perspectives," says Jordan.

Netflix can be accessed via web browsers, smart TVs, tablets, smartphones, and even consoles such as Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Perks for parents

Customizable parental controls: "With Netflix’s parental restrictions, you can create a PIN code and add profiles for everyone in your family—each with different parental control settings to limit what content they can access," says Jordan. "You can set content filters for different ages, from 'Little Kids' to the unrestricted 'All Maturity Levels.'"

Original programming and critically-acclaimed films: From Golden Globe-winning shows like The Crown to possible award-winning films that are being shown simultaneously in theaters, such as The Irishman, there's a lot about Netflix for entertainment-loving adults to love.

Perks for kids

Tons of popular kid-friendly titles: From animated films to documentaries and TV shows, Netflix boasts content that kids who are toddler age on up to teens will love. As Common Sense Media puts it, "from educational cartoons for kids to heartwarming dramas for teens and even classic comedies you watched as a kid, there's bound to be a top-rated title for everyone in your family."

Cons to consider

Lacking warning cards: With a few exceptions—like such as the warning cards at the start of episodes of 13 Reasons Whythere aren't any other advisory details provided at the beginning of shows that could have challenging content, points out Common Sense Media.

Slim pickings from the Disney catalogue: While titles like Tarzan and Bolt still remain on the streaming platform, the invent of Disney+ means that movies and shows produced by the Mouse are dwindling from Netflix over time.

Mobile quality and safety: Common Sense points out that mobile quality has been reported to be spotty, with lots of buffering interruptions, and it can be tricky to keep an eye on what kids with access to mobile devices are watching—especially given that the lack of password protection on profiles (or for exiting a Kid profile) is a major flaw.

And the cost?

Netflix offers three streaming plans that start at $8.99 per month and go up to $15.99 per month. Get more details here.


Like the other streaming services, Hulu is a subscription-based service that streams movies and TV shows and produces original content. They're best known for making the latest episodes of many shows that are currently on air, so families can keep up with their favorite shows, says Jordan.

Hulu can be accessed through devices such as Roku boxes, gaming consoles, Apple TVs, Amazon Fire products, or online through web browsers. It’s also available as an app for smartphones and tablets for use on the go.

Perks for parents

Parental controls: "Primary account holders have the option to control viewing by creating individual profiles for everyone who will be using the account or by adjusting the age settings for the account as a whole," explains Jordan. "Mature content is automatically restricted based on the age associated with each Hulu profile. Children under the age of 13 will not be able to watch any R-rated films or shows rated TV-MA from their individual profiles."

Snazzy, intuitive features: Adults appreciate the organization of the app and features such as going full-screen or "lower lights."

Perks for kids

Tween-targeted content: Hulu features tween-friendly classics like Who's the Boss? and The A-Team, as well as newer shows this demographic will enjoy, such as Are You Smarter Than Fifth Grader?.

Cons to consider

Plenty of inappropriate content: Common Sense Media warns that the some of the free shows and movies on Hulu may not be appropriate for kids, pointing out that although a lot of the content on the classic sitcoms, network dramas, and cable reality shows are fine for tweens, there are some programs, such as Prison Break and The Girls Next Door with inappropriate violence or sexual content.

A parental control headache: Meanwhile, the parental controls have a loophole, as Jordan notes, "If you set up a profile for a child 13 or above and do not opt for a Kids profile, your child will be able to access any content on Hulu, including mature content such as R-rated films and shows rated TV-MA. To enable these restrictions, you must either create a new individual profile or contact Hulu to adjust the age settings for the entire account. Contacting Hulu for an age setting adjustment will block mature content for all profiles on the account."

Commercials: According to Common Sense Media, "Commercials are shown before and after all programs, unless users upgrade to a commercial-free subscription service. Sometimes, the commercials promote shows that are inappropriate for kids by showing iffy content."

And the cost?

Hulu offers four different subscriptions plans that start at $5.99 per month and go up to $60.99 per month (which includes live TV access). Get more details here.

Apple TV+

Just like Disney+, Apple TV+ launched this November. "Apple TV+ is one of the most recent additions to the streaming platform community, and it aims to become a powerhouse for star-driven original content from cultural icons like Oprah—no reruns here," says Jordan.

You can watch Apple TV+ on iOS devices, streaming platforms, popular smart TVs, AirPlay-enabled TVs, and on the web. Through Family Sharing, up to six family members can share one Apple TV+ subscription.

Perks for parents

New, exclusive original programming: You might want to check out The Morning Show, a drama starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and starring Steve Carell, or Dickinson, a darkly comedic coming-of-age story about poet Emily Dickinson. Oprah fans will be psyched to see her join compelling authors in conversation on the platform.

Perks for kids

Cool new original kids shows: Helpsters is a new children’s series from the makers of Sesame Street, and Snoopy in Space takes viewers on a journey with Snoopy as he follows his dreams to become an astronaut. There's also Ghostwriter, a reinvention of the beloved original series about kids who are brought together by a ghost in the neighborhood bookstore.

Cons to consider

Controls don't set across devices: "Unfortunately, even though you can access AppleTV+ in so many ways, content restrictions don’t translate across platforms," says Jordan. "A restriction put in place on an iPad, for example, won’t apply when Apple TV+ is viewed from the web."

It doesn't stack up to competitors yet: Engadget says that "with no blockbuster third-party content, and underwhelming originals, you're getting a lot less for your money" with Apple+ TV.

And the cost?

Apple TV+ costs $4.99 per month, and it's free for one year with the purchase of Apple hardware. Get more details here.

YouTube TV

Do you want to get rid of cable boxes, service contracts, and costly television bills? Consider cutting the cord and opting for the YouTube TV streaming service instead. For $50 per month, users get access to 70+ broadcast and cable networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, TBS, TNT, CNN, and ESPN. And you don’t even need an actual TV screen; users can also watch on their computer, cell phone, or tablet. Visit tv.youtube.com/welcome and enter your zip code to check out the channels in your area.

Perks for parents

Parental controls: You can limit content for certain YouTube TV accounts to “TV-Y, TV-G, G, and PG only.” Programs not within these ratings won’t appear in any search results or recommendations.

Unlimited DVR capabilities: Is your favorite show on TV during bath time? No worries! Simply record it with YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR space. You can stream these recorded programs wherever you go.

No commitments: Unlike cable, YouTube TV doesn’t have hidden fees, contracts, or annoying installations. It’s the perfect solution for busy, budget-friendly parents!

Perks for kids

Multiple accounts: YouTube TV lets you access six accounts on three simultaneous devices. This means Big Brother can watch the football game on TV, Little Sister can stream Disney Channel from her iPad, and you can catch up with HGTV on your laptop—all at the same time!

PBS content: YouTube TV is now streaming more than 100 local PBS stations, and users can access the channel PBS KIDS 24/7. Your little one can watch all of his favorites: Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Molly of Denali, and more!

Sports stats: Does your child love baseball, football, basketball, or hockey? “Stats view” gives real-time stats of the game without any spoilers (even if you’re watching on DVR), while “key plays view” lets you re-watch important plays. You can also see live scores across a sports league with “scores view.”

Cons to consider

The parental controls are limited. You can turn on parental controls through profile settings. But keep in mind that there’s no password or pin required to change them—so older kids might be able to work around them.

Not everything is on-demand. Since YouTube TV streams broadcast and cable networks in real time, not everything is available on demand. Some networks, however, do have this option for recent shows.

Advertisements. One of the perks of services like Netflix or HBO is minimal advertisements. Since YouTube TV is a streaming service instead of an on-demand service, though, you’ll see normal commercials during your live programs. You can’t fast-forward through these ads. (You can, however, fast-forward if watching something recorded to your DVR).

And the cost?

YouTube TV costs $49.99/month. You can create up to six accounts. Get more details here.

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