Parental controls for games consoles

Family playing computer games 

Many games consoles and portable media players now let you go onto the internet at the touch of a button.

This guide will show you how to find information to help keep children safe online when using games consoles and portable media players.

Games consoles

Most modern games consoles let you go online but each console will have different parental controls.

Here are the options offered by some of the more popular games consoles:

Microsoft Xbox 360 offers parental controls called Family Settings to help control the types of games and films that children can play or view based on their content ratings. It also provides settings to control the types of interaction carried out on Xbox live. The consoles are automatically set to allow full access so you will need to change the settings to the appropriate rating for your child.

Nintendo DS and DS Lite both use PIN (Personal Identification Number) systems so that parents and carers can control downloads, internet access and photo sharing.

Nintendo Wii offers parental controls for game playing and internet use. Game playing settings use age ratings and can be changed to the most appropriate rating for your child. If the Wii is connected to the internet you can restrict use of the internet and sending and receiving of messages.

• Both the Sony Playstation 3 and Sony PSP have parental control settings that restrict the types of games that can be played and downloaded, as well as video content that can be viewed.

Portable Media Players

Portable media players may have in-built parental controls or use Windows Media Player to play video material. The Windows Media Player programme has built-in parental controls, allowing you to set ratings for certain videos.

Archos portable media players have two settings - “Adult (unrestricted access)” when all files are visible and “Child (restricted access)” when files marked as adult content will not be visible. Every time you connect the device to a computer, it will ask for the parental code. A parental code system allows you to create a code and hide any fi le or folder from view. By default, the device is set to “Adult”.

Reporting inappropriate material

Our research found that 22 per cent of children and young people say that they're uncertain about what they would do if they came across inappropriate material on their games console.

Parents and carers should encourage their children to tell them about anything they have seen or heard that has made them feel uncomfortable or scared. Parents and carers should report incidents to their internet service provider and in instances of sexual contact to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) using their report abuse button.

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Some sites also provide a direct link to CEOP, usually through a red button. If you/your child encounter content online that you think might be illegal, there are two things you can do. Firstly, report it to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). Again some sites may provide a direct link to the IWF. Secondly, report the content to your internet service provider.

Further help is available at the following websites

Wii: http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/settingsParentalControls.jsp

XBox: http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/support/xbox360/familysettings/consolefamilysettings.htm

Nintendo DS: http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/ds/dsprivacy.jsp

Sony Playstation: http://www.us.playstation.com/support

IWF: http://www.iwf.org.uk/reporting.htm

ThinkuKnow: http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/faq/gaming.aspx

Chatdanger: http://www.chatdanger.com/

CEOP: http://www.ceop.gov.uk/reportabuse/index.asp

KnowITAll: http://www.childnet-int.org/kia/