My husband wrote a technology review at my request, which he delivered in email form to our homeschool community and I paste here into this blog.
Dear Homeschool families:
If you hadn't heard of it, VidAngel is a movie internet streaming service that gives customers the ability to select and remove objectionable content from movies. For instance, as the screen capture below demonstrates, you can select which words you want removed.
The technology is very interesting, but it is not without drawbacks. Here are some of my observations:
1. There are no monthly subscription fees. Their pay structure may be confusing ... but it is so for complex legal reasons. Technically they are selling you the digital rights to view the movie and since you "own" the movie, you have the right to edit/filter the content. If they were to only "rent" you the license, they may be on a more legally risky ground. So they sell you the movie for $20, then after you are done, you can click a button to sell it back to them for $19. ... so the net cost of the movie is $1. If you wait longer than 24 hours, the sell back rate drops to $18 (and so forth)... so effectively it is a $1 cost per day.
2. The controls are very thorough. They give you the ability to remove almost everything ... even seemingly innocent alcohol or tobacco usage ... even legal usage such as an grown adult actress drinking a glass of wine with dinner. ... or an actor smoking a cigar. I suppose they do this for protestant religions with a disordered puritanical bent.
3. The filter controls are easy to use and understand. You can set up default filters and you can search by MPAA ratings.
4. There is a certain percentage of movies out there that would be decent and family friendly if it weren't for those few scenes. If VidAngel has any value, it would be for these limited movies. ... the fact that there isn't any monthly subscription means that you could use this service sparingly (a few times per year) without wasting money.
1. The ability to turn filters on/off is too easy. Once you set up filters and start the movie, there is nothing stopping a user (even a tech savvy teen while the parent steps out of the room) from pausing the movie and changing the filter to allow a bad scene and then to turn the filter back on after the bad scene is finished. There aren't any parental controls that would prevent or give any evidence of that. Ask yourself if introduction of this content into your home is worth the added temptations? Is this a near occasion of sin for someone in your home?
2. Their are really bad movies available on VidAngel, including some quasi-pornographic movies such as 50 Shades of Gray. The site does includes a viewing history to show which movies were purchased and I don't think there is a way to edit this list if someone were trying to conceal a watched movie.
3. In many cases the sinful content can not be removed from a movie. For instance, Hollywood film makers often infuse subversive and corrupting content into the plot of the movie in ways that cannot be helped by simply removing a words or scenes. The majority of Hollywood films just simply can not be redeemed. This is true of movies (even Disney) that have magic/occult/new age content as well as movies with over the top suspense and frenetic scenes that can be so damaging to childrens' emotions. There are also lots of movies that undermine the role of fatherhood or of priests and religious. These elements can not be filtered out.
4. Some movies might be okay if you remove the bad scenes, but the amount of content removed becomes so great that the movie get's really choppy. If you have to cut out that much, is it really worth your time?
5. Also consider that there might be some public scandal in children going around quoting funny scenes from objectionable movies that were watched in a filtered way over VidAngel. This could create a dangerous peer pressure that leads other children into wanting to watch this film ... but who do not have access to VidAngel. This could exacerbate the common argument, "All the other altar boys have watched [Movie X] ... why can't we?"
These are my initial thoughts. Please be careful. The world is trying to corrupt the souls of your children. As the great Father Berg said in a homily once, "Since when is providing 'shelter' for a child considered a pejorative?"