Plex Parental Controls….sort of.

   As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Plex. In fact, I consider it an essential element of Cord Cutting. As far as I’m concerned, there is no equal for managing you movie / TV library.

   For my home, I have my Plex library divided into 3 categories –
1. Movies
2. Kid’s Movies
3. TV Shows
   Plex does an excellent job with all the Metedata for all my content. Cover art, theme songs, movie/show descriptions – it’s all there.
  As we currently have 2 little ones in the house who have no problem using Roku to select their favorite movies, it dawned on me that there is one important element missing from Plex – Parental Controls.
   For the most part, our boys stick to shows / movies that they know have content that we as their parents feel is acceptable for them to watch. And we have no issues with trusting them, as far as trusting a 4 and 7 year old can go. But in my movie category, there are selections that I simply don’t want them to stumble upon. To me the solution seems somewhat simple, and there are actually a couple of things Plex could do to address this.
   Multiple User Profiles: This seems like a rather obvious answer. Since Plex is a server, there should be an Admin profile which controls what content is available to any other profiles the Admin creates. This would include what categories, channels and settings would be available to these other user profiles.
   Folder PIN and/or Passcode: This initially seemed like the obvious answer to me. For every category that the Admin saw fit, there could be a PIN or Passcode required in order for others to view the content. 
   Simple request, right? Well, I thought so. So being a lifetime Plex Pass owner, it was off to the forum I went and posted my suggestion / request. The only response I got was notification that there was already a “Very Popular” thread about the same topic and I should go there. I guess I should not have been as surprised as I was to find that there are countless others who have the same concern. Not only that, but it seems this issue has been brought up to the Plex Devs over the past year and a half at least. 
   I reached out to the Plex folks via Twitter, and was informed that they have plans to address this.
   This is good to hear, but in the meantime I stumbled upon an alternative while visiting the forums – Plex RARflix
As you may note from my Tweet above, I initially thought RARflix fell short of what I was attempting to accomplish. But then the Dev contacted me and told me the simple (and almost genius) steps to make it all work –
“On Computer
1. Confirm your PMS is logged in with your primary myplex account (preferably with PlexPass)
2. Create secondary myplex accounts @ https://my.plexapp.com.  After creating secondary myplex accounts logout of my.plexapp.com
3.  Login into https://my.plexapp.com as your primary myplex account Share whatever sections you would like from your primary myplex account with secondary myplex accounts. You will then have to log into my.plexapp.com as the shared user and accept the invite.
4.  Login into Plexweb (via my.plexapp.com), with each secondary account and verify shared library sections are working correctly & are accessible.
5.  Log into Plex/Web with your Primary myplex login. Click on settings (wrench & screwdriver logo on top right). Click on “Show Advanced settings”. Click on myPlex. Check “Require authentication on local networks” checkbox.
On Roku
1.  Launch Rarflix and sign into myplex with your primary myplex account on your default user.. 
2.  On Rarflix go to Preferences > User Profiles & create another profile. (User 1)
3.  Exit out of Rarflix app
4. Launch Rarflix again, this time you should see an option for default user & User 1, select User 1
5. While logged into User 1, goto Preferences >myPlex & log in with your secondary account.
6. Go back to Rarflix home screen and confirm you can view your shared library sections..  If you can, then everything should be done..
You should now be able to exit out of Rarflix & select either user profile & everything should work as expected..
After you have confirmed every works correctly with your 2 user setup, you can add more users bye repeating steps 2-4 on your computer & 2-5 on the Roku.”

 One other step I had to take that he didn’t mention was that, before connecting the additional profile(s) account(s), be sure to go into Preferences and remove the local server address that is there (it’s your local machine that you have Plex installed on), and disable Discover at Startup. Otherwise, a loop is created and the app will simply crash. It may be that I probably skipped step 5 on the computer setup side, so if you follow those steps correctly you may not have this issue.
  As of now, Plex RARflix has replaced the regular Plex app on all my Rokus. Each has 2 profiles – the “main” family profile, which is PIN protected, that contains all content, and the “kids” profile, which only has the kid’s movies and TV shows. Below is an example of a multiple user setup (not mine) –
   and the PIN screen –
   So as of now, my Plex server has the parental controls I need!
   I don’t in any way mean this post to be a jab at the Plex guys, but I wonder why it’s taken so long to implement such a thing as Plex has gone practically mainstream. Maybe just an after-thought? Who knows. And I’m confident they’ll get it worked out.
   But in the meantime, if you’re like me and are looking for this type of control, I suggest giving Plex RARflix a try! It has tons of other customizations that I haven’t even mentioned here!
   If you want to give it a try and have questions, as always feel free to contact me. 

12 thoughts on “Plex Parental Controls….sort of.

  1. Do you need a PlexPass? I followed instructions and even though my server says I have shared 1 library (kids) with secondary account it can still access all libraries.

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  2. Plex Pass should not be necessary, since you're essentially creating a second account and making it accessible via Plex. Be sure to back track and check each step closely. For the “kids” library – did you create and entirely new account for it on the Plex website?I also ran into the same issue initially, which is why I included:”One other step I had to take that he didn't mention was that, before connecting the additional profile(s) account(s), be sure to go into Preferences and remove the local server address that is there (it's your local machine that you have Plex installed on), and disable Discover at Startup. Otherwise, a loop is created and the app will simply crash. It may be that I probably skipped step 5 on the computer setup side, so if you follow those steps correctly you may not have this issue.”Hope this helps! Please feel free to keep me posted on your progress.

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  3. So the one challenge that I've run into is channels. You can't share channels to a secondary account and you can't add channels without a PMS. Anyone have ideas?

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  4. Hence the “sort of” in the title. True – this approach isn't 100% without flaws, but it does help address the 1 fundamental short coming of the otherwise awesome Plex experience: keeping little ones in the home from seeing movie content you may feel is inappropriate for them.But as for the channels lineup in Plex, there really are none that are available via Plex that my children would be watching in the first place so this really isn't an issue for my home.

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  5. Thanks for the idea. We have a lot in common – I'm also a Plex/Roku user with a 7 and 5 year old.My question is: When you set this up are you now watching Plex via the internet like you do in myPlex or is it still streaming locally? If it's going over the net that's going to be an issue for me… bandwidth not so good for HD

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  6. Excellent question. The thing to remember is that when you share library content from the Plex server with someone, it is only allowing access to that shared portion of your library. If the person you share with is accessing remotely, then bandwidth does become a consideration. But if they are on your network, the content is only streaming across your network, thus Internet bandwidth isn't a factor. This is true of the setup outlined here – you are essentially sharing with a user on your local network so Internet bandwidth is not a factor. Hope that helps answer your question!

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  7. Works great but only problem well not a big deal but if I fast forward it the sound and video will get out of sync…anyone has this issue?

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