How old is too old to use your parents' Netflix?
“It’ll be weird when my parents die and I’ll have to take over paying for the streaming services.”
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
For any parents of adults reading this: Don’t get any ideas. —Kate
If you’re not paying for Netflix, maybe you’ll pay for Embedded?
I finally turned 30, which means I’ve started asking myself the big questions: When do I want to have kids? Will I ever own a house? And what will I do if my parents tell me it’s time to get my own Netflix plan?
Things like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime are services I was young and lucky enough to get grandfathered (daughtered?) into, because my family used them when I was still under their care and financial support. Despite the fact that I’ve now grown up, moved out, and earn my own money, I still find myself texting my mom “What’s our HBOMax password?” every few months, and hoping this never inspires what may now be inevitable.
In a recent interview, Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters revealed that Netflix will start asking everyone who shares a password to start paying for their own accounts. He didn’t get into particulars—does this mean Netflix will eliminate the plans that support multiple devices?—but a declaration like this almost certainly means other platforms will follow suit.
Netflix had a bad 2022, and the economic situation in 2023 isn’t great, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this threat coincides with the first generation of “Netflix children” having well and truly grown up. The only problem is, according to around 30 respondents of a survey I shared on Instagram and Twitter, nobody has a plan for what to do about it.
“If you still share all your streaming services with your parents, do you think you'll ever get kicked off/pay for your own?” I asked.
“God please don’t bring it up with them,” one 29-year-old replied.
Nobody who responded said they’d ever had a straightforward discussion about it with their parents. Instead, they’ve made vague assumptions about how things might play out.
“Phone plan is a *sensitive subject*, but I’ll likely be kicked off when I get married,” one 30-year-old wrote. “TV streaming is a relatively even split, so we’ll share for as long as the platform allows password sharing.”
A number of respondents referred to an “even split” developing over the years, as streaming services have multiplied and the adult children have signed up for some on their own.
“We have a system: I pay for Disney+, my brother pays for Netflix, and my parents pay for HBOMax,” a 29-year-old responded. “We all share passwords.”
“I got HBO for Game of Thrones and decided they could use my HBO if they never kicked me off Netflix,” another 30-year-old said.
There are benefits to having your own account, since sharing with family can result in some unexpected complications.
“My dad will sometimes try to reset the password on my accounts, which I ignore,” one 31-year-old shared. “He also will download random (free) apps to their Fire Stick that I get the receipt for. He once enrolled my Amazon account in a free trial of Paramount+ through Amazon channels, even though I already have and share Paramount+ with them (I canceled the trial before it charged me).”
“Re: Spotify — we had a family account and my mom canceled it without realizing me and my brothers used it, resulting in an extremely stressful morning of listening to ads and being unable to skip through my playlists,” a 26-year-old wrote. “Mom says all three kids called her within minutes of each other.”
“I forgot that I had access to my mother’s account for about 8 years,” a 32-year-old wrote. “Recently a new browser just logged me right into my old old profile on her account. She now will comment on some of my viewing habits in sometimes judgemental ways.”
“One time I was trying to log into my dad’s HBO while setting up my dating profile on my phone at the same time and I accidentally put his email into my dating profile ❤️,” said a 27-year-old.
“My mom got an email alert when I changed the icon for my Netflix profile to a picture of Spirit the Stallion of the Cimarron,” a 29-year-old revealed.
Those last two are both my friends who, despite this being an anonymous survey, I recognized immediately.
Finally, I decided to seek the perspective of a set of parents: mine. Luckily, they said it had never occurred to them to ask my sister and me to get our own accounts.
“Since we don't live in the same house or in the same town, to some degree we have a shared experience of shows that we watch,” my dad said. “And it would be a real bummer to be like, ‘Hey, you should really watch Stonehouse.’ It’s like, ‘Well I don't have BritBox.’” (We’re big BritBox fans).
My dad had a whole rant about streaming services that you can read if you want, but no pressure:
I have a bit of an adversarial feeling about streaming services. There is a conscious and profit-driven slicing and dicing of things to make it so that you can't find the killer app. Amazon Prime would be a perfect example of this. The sort of creep that they've had, which is, ‘Oh, you have Amazon Prime and you can see all these things’ except an increasing percentage, you go to look at it, and it's like, ‘No, you gotta pay for that.’ It's like, wait a minute. It's following this sort of American healthcare model with companies that started out where it was like, ‘You have all these things,’ and now it's like, everything must be purchased separately. So I don't feel any sort of need to maintain integrity with these streaming services because they're out gouging us and coming up with a variety of systems to make it so you have to get everything and I don't want everything.
I’m sure there’s someone out there whose parents sat them down and told them it was time to fly the digital nest, but for the most part, it’s just one of those things that won’t get talked about—until it has to be.
“I don’t think they’ll ever kick me off,” a 33-year-old wrote. “My adult siblings also share as does my cousin who is 10 years older than me and has her own kids. I was just thinking the other day that it’ll be weird when my parents die and I’ll have to take over paying for the streaming services.”
Is there going to be a Netflix plan for that?