Staying safe on XBox – Advice for Parents and Carers

17 Jan 2020 Andy Robinson

We recently published an article about staying safe on PS4, so we decided it was only fair to do the same for Xbox.  

Gaming can play a huge part in young people’s identity and it’s important that we find ways to protect and encourage the healthy parts of it, while also being mindful of the possible risks.

Gaming has changed a lot in the last decade or so. Games are now primarily designed to be played online, while in-game purchases, micro-transactions and loot boxes are commonplace, and skins and customisation have given players even more freedom to make changes to their gaming experiences.

This safety check-up is all about staying safe when playing Xbox One. Microsoft has made a range of safety options available that should suit most parents’ needs.

Create Family Accounts

Creating Family Accounts on your Xbox is a great first step towards putting safety as a priority.

Any account with a birth date that places the user under the age of 18 will be asked to acquire parental consent to use the service.

These child accounts must be linked to an adult’s Microsoft account to participate in the Xbox Live service (i.e. playing games online, downloading games and other content).

Microsoft has a comprehensive guide to the who, what, and how of Family Accounts but some of the basics include:

Set time limits on Play time

Setting screen time limits can be seen as controversial, and we have previously discussed the differences between screen time and screen use. It may not be popular at first but setting a limit on ‘Play Time’ for Child Accounts can be a sensible way to keep a healthy balance with gaming.

You can choose various settings for Play Time – for example, total playable hours per day, session duration, or access times.

Play Time management is easy and can be done via the XBox system, web browser, or XBox app. XBox has a clear and simple guide for setting up Play Time limits for all of those methods.

If your child reaches their time limit, it is possible to add more play time to their account, so this feature has flexibility built in.

Know your age ratings

As outlined in our article on staying safe on PS4, every game you buy and play will have a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating. This is the European standard for age rating on games.

PEGI was introduced in 2003 to standardise the dozens of similar-but-not-precisely-the-same ratings used across the continent.

There are five ratings – 3, 7, 12, 16, and 18 – and a range of content descriptors that detail what in the game could be considered harmful or offensive.

You can learn more about the PEGI labelswhy they exist, and what they mean on the official PEGI website.

If you want another view on the ratings of games, based on the experiences of parents, children, and experts, we recommend using the magnificent Common Sense Media’s game reviews.

Content limits

If you’re worried about your children accessing content that is inappropriate for their age, you can set up limits for what they can access through their accounts, based on the content’s recommended age, be it games, movies, TV shows, and music.

Microsoft’s guide to setting an age limit for content goes through it all clearly and quickly.

This doesn’t have to be a blanket ban, though. If your child tries to access restricted content, you will get a message asking you for your consent for them to access it. You can then decide whether to refuse it, or choose to allow it– either permanently or as a one-off.

Setting spending limits

There are a few ways you can approach spending limits on Xbox, which means you’re free to set up a plan that works best for you and your children:

  • You can set up permission requests for purchases. In doing so, you will receive an alert if your child wants to make a purchase and you can decide on a case-by-case basis.
  • You can add money directly to a child account. You can still turn on the approval setting we mentioned above if you want to see what they are purchasing.
  • You can set up a unique passkey to confirm purchases on Xbox. This works in the same way as the permission request feature, but means your child will have to ask you directly if they want to make a purchase.

Setting a spending limit or restriction is sensible and certainly good practice.

Bonus Tip – Get involved!

If you need to have a parent account on the Xbox… You might as well put it to use.

By playing the games your kids are, you’ll have a better understanding of why they like them so much, and it will help you feel more comfortable in knowing how to respond if any issues do crop up.

You might even find yourself surprised about how educational some games can be, even the simplest shoot-em-ups require an element of strategy and coordination. And hopefully you’ll have some fun spending time playing games together!

So pick up that controller – it’s time to dive into gaming.

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