College students have to study hard, so they deserve some down-time to chill with movies or music. And since paying college tuition is enough of a burden, most parents aren’t inclined to pay for a separate Netflix, Hulu, or music streaming account for their college-bound offspring. But before you hand over passwords to your subscription accounts, be aware that students don’t have the same sense of privacy that older adults have, so your passwords could get around the dorm faster than a case of athlete’s foot in the communal showers.
Passwords are meant to be private, and you would think that a young adult would no more think of sharing a password than they would share their toothbrush. But a recent survey in the youth culture magazine MUD found that while most 18- to 24-year-old readers were using multiple subscription services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Spotify, many were using their parents’ accounts or their friends’ parents’ accounts.
It’s not surprising. Millennials grew up with vast amounts of free content available on YouTube, Wikipedia, and other sites, so they don’t think twice about not paying for it. But you should think about it. First of all, most subscription entertainment services state in their agreements the number of people in the same household who are allowed to use the service at the same time. While services like Netflix and HBO haven’t cracked down hard on violations, a recent Federal court case implied that unauthorized password sharing could technically be considered a felony.
The more likely problem from giving your student your passwords is that they will share with friends who will share with other friends, and pretty soon you won’t be able to use your own subscription. For example, a family subscription to Netflix usually allows up to four simultaneous video streams. So if your daughter and three dorm mates are streaming movies on your account when you want to binge watch your favorite series, you’ll be out of luck. And if the subscription services do decide to crack down on abuses in the future, they could decide to cancel your account. Plus there’s the remote chance that your password could fall into the hands of some budding cyber hacker who could use it to breach the provider’s computer systems and steal information or just cause mischief. And if you happen to reuse passwords, and a hacker gets ahold of your Netflix password that is also your banking password, even worse! (Which is another reason you should never reuse passwords ).
The bottom line is that there are risks to any kind of password sharing, even for something as innocuous as streaming old reruns, and kids experiencing the freedom of college for the first time tend to take risks. So think twice before sending your children off with your passwords.