The days when game consoles could be considered harmless toys for children are long gone. Exposure to adult games with violent content, abuse via in-game voice chat and hundreds of pounds spent on in-game purchases are just some of the risks you face if you give a child unhindered access to a game console.
If you’re thinking of buying a kid a new Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch, spend some time reading our guide below on how to safely set these consoles up for kids. A few simple steps before putting the controllers back on can make a big difference.
Here’s our guide to making sure a shiny new games console doesn’t become a parent’s worst nightmare.
How to Set Up an Xbox for a Child
The absolute key thing to remember when giving a kid a new Xbox, or even letting them use a family console, is to make sure they sign in with their own profile/account. Leave them on your (administrator) account, and they could potentially play what they like, change settings at will, and expose themselves to all the dangers we mentioned above.
If you’re a Windows PC owner, the good news is that Microsoft uses the same account system for Xbox consoles as it does for Windows PCs. So it’s best to set up the console using your account and add the child as a secondary account holder – the Xbox setup screens will walk you through this. If you don’t already have Microsoft accounts on a PC, you can set them up on the console itself, but again, create one for the adult and another for the child, even if you don’t want to. not play games yourself.
key tip: Make sure you can’t log in to the adult’s account without entering a PIN or password. You’ll find it in the console’s security settings.
Microsoft automatically applies settings appropriate for your child’s age. Tell them that a child is 12 years old, for example, and they will only be able to play games 12 years old or younger, and they will not be able to talk to strangers online, etc. Some of these settings may be restrictive, but you can always change them, either from the console’s settings menu or from the Microsoft family website.
You can also set time limits (eg, two hours a day or between certain times) on individual games, if you find them becoming obsessed with a title.
A word of warning on Xbox: if you’re a Microsoft Game Pass subscriber, you can’t share your games with your child unless you have a Game Pass Friends & Family account.
How to Set Up a PlayStation for a Child
The same principle applies for PlayStation as for Xbox: put the child on his own account, not on that of an adult. Other than that, you can’t convert an adult account to a child’s later unless you delete it and start over. Once the child has started accumulating trophies, there will be problems if you try to go that route.
To fix this, you’ll need to become what Sony calls the “family manager” on its PlayStation Network (PSN). This idea seems like it should come with a big salary and a car, but in reality, any adult who creates a child account will automatically become the family manager. The self-appointed head of household can then appoint other adults as additional parents/guardians. If nothing else, that means it’s not just an adult who has to bear the bullying.
You can learn how to create adult and child accounts on Sony’s website. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to manage how much time the child can spend playing on the console, allow or deny access to specific games, and manage access to in-game chat and voicemail. Remember that online play with friends is now part of the game, so you can allow voice chat with approved friends, but not allow random players to chat with your child. All this is possible in the settings of Sony.
As before, don’t share your password with your child or leave your account unprotected on the console, or they might decide to dive into the settings themselves.
How to Set Up a Nintendo Switch for a Child
Of all the consoles, the Nintendo Switch is the one we’d least fear giving a child. It doesn’t have as many bloody, violent games as you’ll find on Xbox or PlayStation. And, while it does support voice chat, it’s not a big part of Switch gaming. On the other hand, the console is portable and therefore easier for children to sneak into gaming sessions under the covers.
Fortunately, Nintendo has designed a thankfully simple parental control system. You can just dive into the console settings and access the parental controls from there, but those are limited. Better to download the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app for Android or iPhone. It’s super easy to set up – just create an account and enter a six-digit code from the console screen. The app will walk you through how to do the rest.
Once you’ve installed the app, you can set a daily game limit or what Nintendo oddly calls a “bedtime alarm”. It’s basically a cut-off time, after which kids won’t be able to play on the console until 6 a.m. the next day. They’ll get reminders when they’re nearing their limit or bedtime alarm, so they (hopefully) don’t lose any saved game progress. You can use the app to waive the limit if you get the “just 10 more minutes” plea and decide to buckle up.
Restricting what they can spend in the Nintendo Store requires a bit more in-app setup, requiring you to link their Nintendo Account to your Parental Controls app. However, most tweens seem perfectly happy playing on a Switch without ever having the option to buy from the online store, so you might conclude that you don’t even have to go there first. venue. Or, at least, wait for the harassment to start before setting this up. Until then, enjoy the peace and quiet.