Smart TV content control

I have a Samsung Smart TV. You could describe it as a computer specialising in the presentation of audiovisual material. There is no choice in operating system, the default from Samsung is it. Some apps allow you to password protect the content that is displayed, so you can keep children out of the adult content on Netflix or Stan for example. You can password protect TV channels.

There is the capacity to choose which applications are presented in the menu and there is the ability to protect apps so that they will not run without the password. So I can prevent kids from getting into the Youtube web site via the Youtube app. However you cannot password the meta-app that controls which apps are loaded on the machine, nor the option to add/remove loaded apps to the menu. The last weakness is that the Samsung web browser app which is loaded by default cannot be password protected. I find this choice by Samsung to privilege this app really strange.

The result is that I can hide the default browser away but one can get it back on the menu with a little effort. Having done so the child holding the remote has access to anything on the web if they can type in the URL using the slow and clunky screen keyboard. Little fingers are nimble! At the moment the 6YO is using this ability to get to the Youtube website and play videos of games that he likes but it won’t be long before his curiosity (and improved spelling) take him elsewhere.

The TV is in the lounge room and most of the time under adult supervision but if you wake with the birds and keep the sound down you can have an hour or two of unsupervised access before any adult gets up. Short of putting a padlock on the TV cabinet I cannot see how to keep control of his viewing. I don’t want to get into the issues of porn but to point out there are many reasons to manage the viewing of minors, especially little children.

Question one
Assuming that there is not some option buried deep that I have missed, is it reasonable for Samsung to fail to allow security of all viewing content?

Question two
Is there a Samsung expert out there who can tell me if there is something that I have missed? I can give model numbers etc if you think the task is possible.

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Unfortunately, ‘smart’ TVs are generally designed with usability rather than security in mind. This does not just mean security to prevent your children from watching the wrong stuff, but also security from external threats. Generally ‘smart’ TVs might receive one or two security updates before the manufacturer moves on to next year’s model.

I have two TVs in the house with ‘smart’ capabilities, but have connected neither of them to the Internet. I suggest that if you really want those capabilities in your TV you look at after-market options rather than what the TV offers. Consider a feature-rich DVR, or a Google Chromecast/Apple TV or similar (check what parental controls they offer before purchasing), or even connecting your TV to your computer and managing content from that if you really want to nerd out.

Alternatively, while the software in this review article is run at the device level the article also mentions a couple of choices that run from your router: Circle With Disney and Open DNS. Both will require a little nerdery to set up.

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Doesn’t that also apply to just about every thing that is part of the IOT universe as well as everyday smart devices?

The principle benefit and marketing of smart TV’s and all those other gadgets in the IOT universe is connectivity. Without it there would be no point in having most of them, or upgrading to the latest. Unfortunately “Nerdary” is something of a dark art to 99.99% of consumers.

Sticking to the Smart TV concern, should legislation compel manufacturers to deliver a minimum standard of content management and connected security? A better solution might be for manufacturers to do so voluntarily. However until the larger majority of consumers wake up to the risks, is there any market driven demand for manufacturers to compete and deliver better?

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There should either be “Child Lock” or Parental Controls" obtainable from the settings menu.

Read the following pdf to see if applicible:

or these

https://www.manualslib.com/manual/146282/Samsung-Lcd-Flat-Panel-Tv-Le32r53b.html?page=45

https://www.manualslib.com/manual/146548/Samsung-Series-5.html?page=43

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This is always going to be controversial.

Another way of looking at this is: If control over content is extremely important to a given consumer then choose a product that prioritises control over content instead of a myriad of other whizz bang features … rather than forcing all devices to reflect that one consumer’s priorities.

One option, with the existing TV, is simply to block all access from the TV to the internet except when you are using it / supervising it. So if a young person wants to get up with the sparrows, it won’t help. With a half decent router that is not serious nerdery i.e. just use the web interface of the router to add a rule (one off) and then using the web interface the rule can be enabled or disabled at will. Then you aren’t playing whaccamole blocking this and blocking that and filtering the other.

(Some more advanced routers may allow rules to be conditional on the time of day but it is unlikely that that will be sufficiently flexible - unless house rules really do say that e.g. 4pm - 5pm each weekday is “YouTube Time”.)

Please do. Just in case.

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Thanks @grahroll, my specific problem is to disable the web browser, the first ref you gave steps through locking apps, my TV is not exactly the same but has the same logical steps. The problem is when I get to the step to choose which app to lock there are many that I can lock but not the web browser, it is greyed out and cannot be selected.

That manual says on page one that it deals with; apps access, browser access, inappropriate content and media streaming. The 1st, 3rd and 4th items are covered but item two, the one I want, has no further reference!

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This exchange seems to be confirming my experience that one cannot disable or lock the web browser. I have taken all steps that I can think of to render the browser as useless as possible by clearing favourites, history etc but even here you are thwarted as ‘featured’ sites appear regardless. I have forbidden the browser to open youtube but that can be circumvented. I tried changing from unicode to Chinese and Arabic but this seems to have had no effect.

If you are wondering why I have not called Samsung support I have not found it fruitful in the past, they are friendly and obliging but fairly clueless and any question the slightest out of the ordinary is very time consuming. I find it frustrating that they go to the trouble of implementing various parental controls and then leave a problem like an open browser. The thing is, somebody had to make the decision to exempt the browser from the locking and passwording process. Why?

I give up. It will be a few years before this TV is replaced but on the day I will be looking for better software as this is not the first such problem that I have had with Samsung. Unless anybody else has a bright idea I propose to leave this thread here.

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a) How about giving us the model number?

b) Your question regarding the motivation for the decision to exempt the browser is perhaps one that Choice could get an answer to whereas an individual would only get … well, the kind of experience with Samsung support that you have apparently already had (time-consuming and unproductive - and that is by no means limited to Samsung or even TVs).

c) This is a bit cliche but does your TV have the latest software installed? Is it young enough still to be getting software updates? Have you enabled or disabled software updates?

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a) UA40J6200AWXXY

c) Yes, yes, enabled

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As suggested above by @person the only way I can see to get some control over your child/children is to set the ip address of your TV in the router. Allocate it outside of the DHCP range you have or reduce the DHCP range so you can allocate a fixed address outside of that range.

Once you have a fixed address (or some you also have the choice to block by MAC address) then set Router Parental Controls or Access rules to block the internet between set times. From our router settings:

Time settings selected by clicking the clock symbol (in this case green are hours to be blacklisted):

Of course your router may be different but if you supply a model number and brand we may be able to offer what needs to be set if possible.

Thanks for an innovative solution. It has the disadvantage that he cannot watch any children’s channel that is streamed but only free to air. I can control which free to air channels are available although that is not such an issue. I will consult and see if that is OK.

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If you know they like a particular show you could open the hour/hours for those shows to allow streaming of them. Just needs the eye of a parent to be kept on what is on. All other hours can be blacklisted and you know they won’t be fiddling with the TV browser during those blacklisted hours (on some you use a whitelist with nothing in it and as nothing is whitelisted then everything is blocked…you could of course whitelist safe addresses you allow access to eg ABC for kids) on others the hours you select are blacklisted. Depends on the router and it’s firmware.

Simple answer is the Apple TV with all of the above functions and much more (you can add from the Apple TV App store at no extra charge for the apps). You can also add several different levels of child protection. With subs to Netflix, Stan, and Amazon Prime, plus our home library of ripped DVDs, and the streaming back-catalogues from ABC (iView) 7, 9, 10 and SBS we only occasionally watch ‘live’ TV - mostly the ABC news (because it has no ads). NB: it doesn’t even need a ‘smart’ TV, just one with an HDMI port. (We have a smart TV, but no children, and find that its capability is rather limited and much more difficult to access than the Apple TV.)

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Will it give me one remote to control all aspects of the system? That is choice of source, choice of program within each source, image characteristics, sound volume, one-button startup etc. If not how many remotes would be required?

You can buy a Universal Remote. Then the question becomes: does that remote have adequate functionality to control the needed devices and operate the needed functions?

@rahb1 makes the observation that they only occasionally watch ‘live’ TV, in which case there is negligible need to control the TV itself.

This.

The only way you can really control what happens on your TV.

Or have a router that is capable of giving a particular device the same IP address all the time - in which case on some routers the IP address has to be allocated inside the DHCP range and on other routers it has to be allocated outside the DHCP range. (Go figure.)

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One remote per device (eg TV, DVD, Apple TV) unless you use a universal remote.
You would still use the TV remote to control source, volume, and channel when watching FTA broadcasts.
Also you could disconnect the TV from the network, eliminating the access problem. Throwing it out would be cutting off your nose to spite your face!

I downloaded the manual for the stated model of TV.

It talks about being able to Block pages and being able to Approve pages (two separate functions). Do you see either of those within the Settings for the browser itself? (While you may not be able to remove or disable the browser, if you can block all pages, that may be equivalent.)

Is this what you have already tried?

Yes. When you attempt to load a blocked page you get a warning that it is blocked (or words to that effect) and you are offered the chance to go to the option to unblock it. This option cannot be disabled by password. So blocking is pointless as it can be circumvented readily.

What about the Approve page option? I assume that that is some kind of whitelist c.f. the Block page being some kind of blacklist.

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Thank you for your patience in finding this for me. Unlike the block option, the approve option can be locked with a password. Now to see if the 6YO nerd can get around it.

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