Games consoles don't know whether they're being used by kids or the grown ups. In this article Jp describes how to set up parental controls on the Xbox 360. Word is that our children, or particularly teenagers are rebelling less than previous generations. Rather than getting into smoking, drink and drugs, whilst aspiring to a hotrod car to show off and get killed in, they're hooked into their smartphones, laptops and games consoles getting into trouble via social networks and ultra-violent computer games.
Okay, that might all be a bit tongue in cheek, but it is largely true. I guess if your parents were into cigarettes, drugs and rock and roll, the only way to rebel is to not be. Of course, you would also embrace something your parents didn't get into when they were young and for this generation, it's the internet. I'm amazed that cars are less interesting to the young now, as they've been high on the aspirational list for several generations, but one look at the cost of insurance does give a clue. Now, the smartphone is the true status symbol, along with the number of Facebook friends, or kills in Call of Duty. You don't need to drive out to see a few friends, you can talk to any of them, anywhere, instantly. I feel old today...
In some ways, I bet parents are quite pleased. Drinking, smoking and driving were all done out of sight, whereas if your young are upstairs in their bedrooms, they're safe, right? Well, that's probably a whole other article, but one thing you may wish to limit is time spent on these gadgets, and also be happy knowing that only appropriate content is being viewed on them.
The best solution is of course to keep the gadgets in the living room where they can be seen, but if that battle is lost and the games console is in the bedroom, then there is still something you can do; activate the parental controls. DependentOnGadgets have already covered the Nintendo Wii and the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3). This time, it's the turn of the Microsoft Xbox 360.
The 360 has been through a few changes since it was first released and the latest interface is more in line with their Windows desktop and mobile products as they seek to connect them all to the same ecosystem. Using the controller, you need to highlight the menu options right at the top and move across to 'Settings' using the left analogue-stick. Press the green 'A' button for selection.
In settings, you'll see a range of 'tiles'. You need to highlight and select the 'Family' tile, which as you can see in the picture above will lift up slightly when its been selected.
Microsoft refers to 'Parental Controls' as 'Content Controls' and by default, they're all switched off. As you can see, Microsoft have gone to the trouble of offering quite a range of controls for you to set. The good news is, it's well designed and waaaaay ahead of Sony's vague attempts on the PS3. Go ahead and swtich on the controls by pressing 'A' over the 'On' radio button.
Let's take a look at the first section 'Ratings and Content'. As before, use the left stick to move the selection down and press 'A' to enter the ratings and content section. A list of sub-sections will now appear, which cover restrictions to games and movies (remember, modern games consoles will do more than just play games!).
Drilling down into 'Game Ratings' we can see that Microsoft has sensibly aligned the options with the PEGI and BBFC (more commonly associated with movie age ratings in the UK) restrictions. Using the controller, you can select the restriction appropriate to your child's age and they will not be able to play games with ratings higher than that. If you don't wish to make a change, you can always press the red 'B' button to take a backward step instead.
Back at the ratings and content screen, let's skip to 'Movie Ratings'. The Xbox 360 can play DVD and it's possible to stream movies off the internet via the App Store. These are age rated, making it easy for you to decide what the appropriate limit is for your child and set accordingly by highlighting and selecting with the 'A' button. Alternatively, step back with no changes by pressing the red 'B' button.
Once again, back at ratings and content, we can now select the explict content section. As the menu warns, not all media will carry the flag telling the console it includes explicit content (EG lyrics, or scenes of a graphic nature), but that which does can be blocked.
The final option under ratings and content allows you to decide how the Xbox will treat games and DVDs that don't include ratings will be treated. These could be games that are fine for your child, or disgusting splatter gore fests, but the Xbox simply doesn't know. Here, you can choose to err on the side of caution and block it by default. Should your child then approach you with a perfectly appropriate title, you can add it to the exceptions list by choosing 'Game Exceptions' from the ratings and content screen and following the instructions (basically, the Xbox will apply an ID do that disc and allow it to be used from that point on).
Now we need to use the red 'b' button to step back to the 'Content Controls' and underneath 'Ratings and Content' is the 'Family Timer'. It's great to be able to give the kids the choice when they want to play games, but I'm sure very few people would be keen for them to be permanently plugged in. So how about settng a daily or weekly time limit? Play whenever you like, but when it's gone, it's gone. As you can see in the picture, it's fairly straight forward. Select the radio button for a daily or weekly timer and then set the clock with the time limit. Press 'Continue' when you're ready, at the bottom of the menu.
We've made lots of progress now, but it's worth persevering, as the last few settings do give you some real control over what these consoles are used for when your back is turned. The next setting allows or blocks the 'Xbox Live' service. This is the online service that allows you to link up and chat, play multiplayer games (I've never heard more swearing in my life and mainly from voices that hadn't broken yet) and buy downloadable games. If you think your child is not ready for this, it can be stopped here.
And there we have it. You've now set up the 360 and protected your children (and your wallet in some cases) from the more adult side of movies and video games. The last thing to do is put the settings under lock and key, otherwise it's all for nothing.
You need to set a passcode, which is a simple PIN which you keep secret and use to unlock the restrictions when you need. Click on 'Set Pass Code' with the green 'A' button.
The four digit pin can be quickly chosen by pressing the controller buttons corresponding to the selected number.
For anyone unclear on what those symbols are on about, here's an alternative key:
- 1 = The large left trigger button on the underside of the controller
- 2 = The left bumper, on the front of the controller, left side
- 3 = The right bumper, again these are on the front of the controller
- 4 = Right trigger (unsurprising usually the gun finger!)
- 5 = The left side of the digital direction pad
- 6 = The up side of the digital direction pad (also called the d-pad)
- 7 = The down side of the d-pad
- 8 = The right side of the d-pad
- 9 = The blue button, marked with an 'x'
- 0 = The yellow button, marked with a 'y'
As it's entirely possible that the PIN could be forgotten, the Xbox will also ask for a code reset question. The answer to this will let you into the settings in the event of a forgotten PIN. The questions are pre-defined, you just need to enter an answer. Don't answer a question that the kids know the answer to!
An on-screen keyboard is provided, which can be navigated with the left analogue controller stick and the green button to select the keys. It's not fun. I hope your answer isnt too long...
... but, once you've done it - you're done!
Select 'Save and Exit' and the Xbox is now under parental control. Prepare to be pestered!
If I've missed anything, or there is something needing clarity, let me know in the comments and I'll amend.