How to make video games kid-safe

Parental con­trols for Xbox, Switch, PS4.

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Marc Saltz­man

There are a few things par­ents of­ten fret about when it comes to their chil­dren play­ing video games: Is the game’s con­tent ap­pro­pri­ate for their child? Are they hav­ing trou­ble tear­ing them­selves away from the con­sole? Just who are they talk­ing to on­line in that head­set?

Com­pound­ing these con­cerns is the fact mom and dad can’t al­ways be around. Some con­soles are por­ta­ble, too, such as the Nin­tendo Switch, which a child can take to their bed­room and close the door.

Most kids play video games – about 38.5 mil­lion U.S. kids (ages 2-12), or 74 per­cent of all U.S. chil­dren do, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm EEDAR.

And more than one-third (36 per­cent) of them play on video game con­soles.

The good news is you can take con­trol of your kid’s con­sole – and no, you don’t need to be su­per tech-savvy to know how to do it.

En­abling con­trols on PlayS­ta­tion 4

Whether you have a PlayS­ta­tion 4, PS4 Pro, and PlayS­ta­tion VR, go to the Set­tings menu on con­sole’s menu dis­played on your TV screen – the icon looks like a brief­case – and se­lect Parental Con­trols>Fam­ily Man­age­ment. Once in­side, se­lect PS4 Sys­tem Re­stric­tions.

You’ll first need to type in a four-digit pass­code. By de­fault, it’s four ze­ros, but be sure to change it so no one can eas­ily guess it. You can change the pass­code by se­lect­ing the last op­tion: “Change Pass­code.”

Se­lect “De­fault Parental Con­trols,” which lets you set what games your kids can play, based on their age: The lower the level, the tighter the con­trol.

Once these con­trols are set, if your kids try to play, say, an “Ma­ture”-rated game, they’ll have to type in the pass­code to play.

You also can set age re­stric­tions for Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, to pre­vent young kids from watch­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate movies and TV shows on disc, as well as re­strict­ing ac­cess to PlayS­ta­tion VR con­tent, or the use of the PS4’s web browser, if you like. To im­ple­ment those con­trols, it’s a sim­ple choice of yes or no. Re­turn to the PS4 Sys­tem Re­stric­tions area and you can also use a web fil­ter to block cer­tain web­sites from be­ing dis­played.

You also can con­trol the amount of time fam­ily mem­bers can play games. To do so, you’ll want to set up a user pro­file for ev­ery­one in the home, un­der the Fam­ily Man­age­ment tab. You can also choose to dis­able text, video, and voice chat mes­sages, block user-gen­er­ated video and pic­tures, as well as re­strict con­tent dis­played in the PlayS­ta­tion Store.

Parental con­trols on Xbox One

To set up Fam­ily Set­tings for Xbox One (as well as Xbox One X and Xbox One S con­soles), you must be the ad­min­is­tra­tor on the game con­sole, and then set up an ac­count for ev­ery­one else who uses it. This is handled by se­lect­ing your name in the top left cor­ner of your Xbox home screen, and un­der Ac­count, choose Fam­ily Set­tings and then se­lect Man­age fam­ily mem­bers to add new ac­counts. (In­side, you’ll also see a sec­tion here called “Fam­ily on the web” to set re­stric­tions to on­line con­tent, and you can re­view it in the Web fil­ter­ing area un­der Con­tent Re­stric­tions.)

You can now set up per­mis­sions per ac­count by nav­i­gat­ing to “Pri­vacy & On­line Safety,” un­der Ac­count; there you can man­age the priv­i­leges and per­mis­sions for Xbox Live and con­trol what apps are al­lowed. Un­der the Xbox Live Pri­vacy sec­tion, you can choose “Child de­faults,” “Teen de­faults,” “Adult de­faults” or “Cus­tom,” if you want to cus­tom­ize the op­tions per user.

In the App Pri­vacy sec­tion, you can man­age ad­ver­tis­ing, web use, lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion, cam­era and mi­cro­phone per­mis­sions, pricy set­tings per app, and more.

To set or re­view the parental con­trols and fam­ily set­tings per Xbox One user, se­lect Con­tent Re­stric­tions from the Ac­count page and you can see what’s al­lowed and what’s not, as well as what web fil­ters are in place, per user.

Fam­ily Set­tings on Xbox can even cre­ate an Ac­tiv­ity Re­port for kids, so they can see their own gam­ing habits, in­clud­ing screen time lim­its.

Con­trols for your Nin­tendo Switch

Once you power up the Nin­tendo Switch, se­lect the Sys­tem set­tings icon from the main menu, and then se­lect Parental Con­trols from the list on the left-hand side of the screen.

Here you can watch the full Nin­tendo Switch parental con­trols in­tro­duc­tory video, which will tell you to down­load the free Nin­tendo Switch Parental Con­trols app, avail­able for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android de­vices. You can find the app at the App Store, the Google Play store, or go to p.nin­tendo.com.

The first step is to sign into the app with the same Nin­tendo ac­count that’s on the Nin­tendo Switch – you’ll need to know the lo­gin name or email ad­dress and the pass­word. If you don’t have an ac­count, you can cre­ate one. To link the app on a mo­bile de­vice to the Nin­tendo Switch, you’ll need to type the six-digit code pro­vided by the app into the Nin­tendo Switch.

Now, on the app, tap Set Parental Con­trols. The first choice you’ll have is to set the daily limit on play time. You can choose one or two hours, for ex­am­ple, less or more, or no lim­its at all.

Next, you se­lect the age restrictio­n (such as Child, Pre-Teen, or Teen) and se­lect what you want to re­strict.

The app also lets you track the amount of play time for each fam­ily mem­ber on the sys­tem.

Fi­nally, you can use the par­ent or guardian Nin­tendo ac­count to set pur­chas­ing re­stric­tions on the Nin­tendo eShop, which has down­load­able games. To do so, visit ac­counts.nin­tendo.com and sign in us­ing the Nin­tendo ac­count used to cre­ate the child’s ac­count.

MI­CROSOFT

Par­ents may not want their kids play­ing vi­o­lent video games, such as “Crack­down 3,” or might be con­cerned about too much screen time. Xbox One parental con­trols are easy to man­age – even if you aren’t tech-savvy.

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