By Madison Forster

You may be relieved to hear that the answer is yes, you can block strangers and just allow friends to play with your child while online gaming. Depending on the game console, there are ways to change the settings.

If your child has an Xbox 1 or a Playstation 4, all you have to do is go into “account settings”, and click “Privacy & Online Safety”. Then you can make it so your child is only able to talk to friends, and not strangers. Xbox has a mobile app for parents to set up controls as well. Download “Xbox Family Settings App”, where you can block access to them talking to strangers, set time limits, and set age restrictions.

For a detailed video on how to use the app, click here.

If your child has a Nintendo Switch, there is an app for parents to control their child’s game settings. It is available for download with apple devices and android devices. First, you have to go into the app store and download the app: “Nintendo Switch Parental Controls”. You should be able to select the switch that you want to control (upper-left corner of the screen), and then click “Console settings” (at the bottom of the screen). In “Console Settings,” tap “Restriction Level.” Once you click this, at the very bottom of the list click on “Custom Settings” and then tap “Communicating with Others.” Next, find where it says “Restrict Communicating with Others” and turn it on.

For pictures of these instructions, click here.

If there are certain games that you would like to allow to talk to strangers after changing the settings on your child’s Nintendo Switch, under “Restrict Communicating with Others”, there are all the games on your child’s console that you can click and allow them to talk to anyone.

In addition to these game consoles having parental controls for who your child can play and talk to, there is also another setting where you can control the amount of time they spend playing. You are able to use the parental control settings to set limits of how long they are able to play, as well as set up a cut off time.

If there is any game that you deem inappropriate, you can block the game from your child playing it.

The safest way for children to play online games is to play with only people they know in real life. It may be frustrating to your child to have all these controls, so communicate with them your reasoning for doing it. Explain the risks such as: Bullying, hacking, dangerous influence, and people pretending to be someone they are not. You can also explain why you chose to set time limits, or blocked certain games.

The discussion questions below can be helpful in getting this conversation started with your child to provide open communication with what you are trying to accomplish and understand their perspective.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you like most about playing video games?
  2. If you are able to talk to anyone in the world, what do you think are some bad things that they may try to do?
    • Could they be who they say they are?
    • Could they try and get you to give them anything?
    • Could you hear things that are inappropriate?
  3. How long do you think is “too long” to play video games every day?
    • Could playing video games make you not finish other things like schoolwork?
  4. What are your favorite games to play? What makes them your favorite?
  5. What is the safest way for you to play video games? What are some things we could do to make it safer?


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