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A closer look at making the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 safer for your kids

Many of us are aware of the trouble a child can get into while using a PC – but have you considered how to make the console gaming experience safer? The best advice is that you should participate in their gaming activities. There's no substitute for the watchful eye of a parent; someone who knows the different safety and content issues of gaming and can explain how to handle them as they come up. Just like physical games (you know, sports), video games can be fun and rewarding – as long as children play them in a safe arena.

You can’t always be there, though, so in this article we’re going to look at ways to add extra safety to the console gaming experience. We’re looking at the Xbox 360 and PS3 here, seeing as many families still own these consoles, not having taken the upgrade plunge yet. Even if you have upgraded to the Xbox One or PS4, the old Xbox 360 or PS3 might have been retired to the kids’ bedroom, where it’s harder to police. Fortunately, there are parental controls you can easily set up on both Microsoft and Sony’s last-gen consoles. So make good use of them!

Xbox 360

To control the type of games your child can play via PEGI rating, go to Settings, and then Family. Switch Content Control on, and then under Ratings and Content, you can specify game ratings from PEGI 3 up to PEGI 18. You can also do the same for movie ratings.

Furthermore, under Change Pass Code you can set a pass code to protect the Xbox. Enter a four-button pass code and a question and answer in case you forget your code or want to reset it.

Note that you can also set a Family Timer to limit the total amount of time the console can be used, and block access to Xbox Live if you wish.

When you’re done tinkering, select Save and Exit to leave the Family menu and save your changes.

PlayStation 3

You can restrict games using the Parental Control menu. In the main menu, navigate to Settings, then Security Settings. In the Parental Control menu, a number indicates the level of restriction: The lower the number, the tighter the restrictions.

In Security Settings, select Internet Browser Start Control and choose On to block access to the Internet.

The PS3’s parental controls are enforced by a four-digit password. During installation, you can reset the default password, which is 0000, by navigating to the Security Settings menu, then selecting Change Password. Enter the default password, and then enter a new one.

From this menu, you can also block access to movies going by their age rating.