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How to Turn on Parental Controls

How to Turn on Parental Controls for Switch, Xbox, and Playstation

Linsey Knerl
Reading time: 8 minutes
Most kids (and many adults) play video games these days, and the popularity of games continues to grow since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Game publishers enjoyed U.S. sales of $59.6 billion from March 2020 to March 2021, a 32% increase from the previous year.
While there are all kinds of benefits to playing, there’s also the concern that children could access content that’s not appropriate for their age or stage of development. The game rating guidelines on the back of the game’s box or digital storefront are just one way for parents to understand what games their children play. That’s where parental controls can help.
In this article, we’ll outline how you can set up parental controls on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation consoles to manage the content your kids can access.

How to set up parental controls for Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X

The Xbox One and Xbox Series S and X consoles have grown in popularity thanks to Microsoft’s subscription-based service known as Xbox Game Pass. With a Game Pass subscription, you gain access to hundreds of games, including all of the latest first-party titles, like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Psychonauts 2.
As a result, it may be difficult to track all the content your kid can download and play. Luckily, Microsoft makes it easy for you to set up parental controls on both PC and console.

Parental controls setup via PC

If you have a Microsoft account, you can access and enforce your Xbox privacy and online safety measures on your computer. Start by logging into your adult Microsoft account (aka the head of your family account) and follow these steps:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the Microsoft Family settings tile.
  2. Click on the individual family member you want to adjust settings for, or click to view the entire family. You can also add a new member via the family page.
  3. In each individual member’s profile page, you can access content restrictions, monthly spending limits, and playtime limits from the left-hand side of the page.
  4. To adjust game rating settings, click Content Filter and navigate to the Apps and Game tab.
  5. Use the Apps and games rated up to age drop-down box to select the age limit for your child’s games and content. You can see the ESRB rating for each piece of content, too. You can also block specific apps from this page.

Parental controls setup via console

To set rating limits directly from the console, boot up your Xbox console and log in as the consenting adult for the associated Windows account. Then follow these steps:
  1. Go to System.
  2. Navigate to Settings, then Account, and Family.
  3. You can now adjust the ratings and content settings for each user.
Note: If you use Xbox Game Pass’s family sharing, it may be more difficult to monitor titles unless everyone logs in through their own accounts. If one child logs in as another user, it’s impossible to ensure they’re subject to the controls you set for them.

How to set up Nintendo Switch parental controls

Nintendo may have a reputation for family-friendly games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Super Mario Odyssey, but the Switch console has its fair share of Teen and Mature-rated games. However, Nintendo also provides a thorough list of parental controls and safety measures on the Switch.
There are several ways you can keep tabs on your child’s gaming, spending, and communication online with the Switch. These include the Nintendo Switch eShop account settings that allow you to manage restrictions. Or, you can adjust the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app, available for iOS and Android.

Parental controls setup via the app

Before you use these tools, you need to set up a family group. The easiest way is through your eStore account.
Once you establish your family group, you can sync the mobile app to your Nintendo Account and limit content by rating, total screen time, purchases, communication restrictions, social media sharing, and more. You can also view user activity history from the app.

Parental controls setup via console

If you don’t want to use the app, you can change the settings from within the Switch game console itself.
  1. Turn on the Switch and navigate to System Settings.
  2. Scroll to the Parental Controls dashboard.
This may be the easiest way to block games by age rating and disable online chat functions. Just be sure you log into the main parent account when you do this.

How to set up PlayStation parental controls

If you were lucky enough to pick up a PS5, still enjoy your PS4, or use PlayStation VR, you’ll be glad to know the parental controls setup is simple. And like the other consoles, the PS4|5 has plenty of content aimed at older gamers, so you’ll be glad you set up controls for your children. You can also access them via your PC or console.

Parental controls setup via PC

If you prefer to set up your controls via your PC, here’s how to do it:
  1. Open your web browser and visit the PlayStation Network site.
  2. Log in as the parent or guardian listed on the account.
  3. Access the Account Management settings, making sure you added all the child logins for your household to your family account.
  4. From here, you can set any number of controls and permissions, including rating limits for games, communication tools, and VR.
Blocking VR is a good idea if you don’t want your younger kids accessing this type of technology yet. You may also want to utilize the Trend Micro web-browser settings, which allow you to block access to the PlayStation's native internet browser. This prevents your kids from accessing websites they shouldn’t.

Parental controls setup via console

The instructions for both PS5 and PS4 parental controls are nearly identical. The primary difference is the user interface for the PS5, which varies slightly from the PS4.
  1. Log-in as an adult user and navigate to Settings.
  2. Access the Parental Controls and Family Management to see all of the available security settings, content restrictions, and purchasing limits on the PlayStation Store.

How the ESRB can help you decide

Rating systems aren't a silver bullet to protect your kids from harmful content. Depending on your family's values and what type of games you like to play, you may have your own general rule about ratings but then make exceptions. In this case, you can use the general content restrictions in the parental controls as a starting point and then refine it on a title-by-title basis.

What is the ESRB?

The ESRB rating guide is a fairly comprehensive way to assess game content. You can look up almost any title on the ESRB website to see rating details, which is helpful if you typically buy games digitally and not in-store.
In addition to age range, content warnings, and interactive elements, you can look at specific content categories to rule out specific content such as:
  • Alcohol and drug references
  • Blood, gore, and violence
  • Sexual themes, content, and nudity
  • Gambling
  • Lyrics and language
Some of the descriptions may be difficult to differentiate between at first. For example, an alcohol reference may show a beer can or a bar in the background, while a "use of alcohol” warning may include actual drinking as part of the gameplay. It’s important to know the difference between references and use, and between mild, strong, or explicit descriptions.

Other useful resources for parental guidance

Your family will have to make the decisions that work best for you in these situations. As a tip, you can refer to the reviews on CommonSenseMedia.org for more details on what these content warnings mean for your child.
To help you understand each rating category, consider the age rating on the video game itself. You may see “all ages” or “7 and up” or even “18+.” These are just general guidelines, though, so what’s appropriate for your 7-year-old may not be appropriate for another.
Here are some other helpful tips.

Content descriptions

Look at the game description online or on the product packaging itself. This can easily tell you what the gameplay is about. Is the storyline morbid or encouraging bad behavior? Will the game themes frighten your child?
Reading about the game environment can help you determine if the violence, language, sex, and criminal behavior in a game's ESRB rating is appropriate or not based on context.
Game reviews can help you decide, as well. If you see hundreds of comments about a particular scene and concerns from other parents, you may want to play the game yourself before your kids.

Online content

Some parents just don't want their young children playing online or interacting with other players. If you want to ensure that none of this occurs in your home, you can avoid games with an online content warning of "Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB." This simple phrase, or "users interact," means your kid could interact with others online while playing.
Can you simply turn off internet access? Possibly, but some games don’t function without an internet connection. Or, your kids may miss out on great content designed specifically for online play.
Do your research before you buy an online game with the intent to play it offline, especially if viewing content created by other players is a major component.


There are so many fun games for kids to play, and setting boundaries can help them have an enjoyable experience. However, parental controls aren’t a substitute for supervision. Plus, playing games with your kids is an equally safe and fun way to connect with them! The next time they come to you with a game they want to try, see if it’s something that you all can enjoy together.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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