There are only three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and the fact that something can’t get popular with ‘the youth’ without tabloid newspapers attempting to scare parents about it.
Fortnite, Epic Games’ ridiculously popular free-to-play shooter is the latest casualty of this scare-mongering. We’ve seen claims that the game has been issued with a “child safety warning” by the NSPCC, and that kids should instead go outside and “get some friends in the ‘real world'”.
Scare-mongering about video games is about as old as the medium itself, and for the most part has very little basis in reality. No child should be left to do anything for hours at a time, be it reading, watching TV, or yes, playing video games.
But there’s a nugget of truth in the midst of the Fortnite ‘controversy’ and that’s that, despite the game having an age rating of 12, a lot of the players playing it will be much older than 18, and so much of the voice chat may not be suitable for a 14- or even a 16-year old child.
This is the source of the warning by the NSPCC.
Thankfully it’s a fairly easy problem to fix using most console’s parental safety features, here’s how you do it.
How to set up parental control features on the PS4 or Xbox One
The first step you’ll want to take is to make sure your child can’t play any game that’s got an inappropriate age rating for them. This is a standard feature across both consoles, and is very easy to set up.
On the Xbox One, head into Settings, Account, Family, and then choose your child’s username. From that point you can head into the ‘Access to content & apps’ menu to fine tune exactly what you want your child to be able to play. For instance, a 12-year-old child should be allowed to play 12-rated games, but not 15-rated ones. You can also use the other options to make sure that these games don’t appear in store listings.
On the PS4 meanwhile, you’ll have to create a ‘sub-account’ for your child, after which point you can restrict what games they can play. Head to Settings, Parental Controls/Family Management, Family Management, and then Parental Controls. Select ‘Age Level for Games’ from this menu, and then you can choose what games your child can and cannot play.
The next step you’re going to want to take is especially relevant for a game like Fortnite because it will allow you to turn off voice chat for your child, meaning that they won’t be able to talk to strangers through their games.
On the Xbox One these settings are a lot more nuanced, and frankly walk all over Sony’s. If you head into Settings, Account (or Family, and then the child’s account if you’ve got it set up as such), and then select ‘Privacy and Online Safety’.
From here you can restrict their communications to Friends only, meaning that they’ll be able to talk to anyone they’ve got as a friend on the system (such as people from school who they’ll likely be on the same team as), but not strangers. At this point you’ll need to emphasise the importance of only becoming ‘Friends’ with people they actually know.
Meanwhile, on the PS4, you’ve got fewer options. Essentially you’re forced to either turn off voice chat completely in the Parental Controls section of the settings menu (your child will need to have a sub account for this to be an option), or else leave it entirely open. Being able to chat with friends is a key attraction of playing online, so it’s not an easy call to make.
There are plenty of tools available to help keep your child safe while they play games online, but nothing is going to be as effective as talking to them directly about their hobby. It’s not as simple as saying all games are good or all games are bad, and it’s only through having those sorts of conversations that you’ll be able to work out when or if any line has been crossed.
What do you think is the best way to keep a child safe online? Get in touch with us @TrustedReviews.