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The Kids Might Not Be Alright - Will PS4 Improve Parental Restrictions?

Parental Control Restricted Subheading.

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Lots of things change when you have children – your sleep patterns, your amount of free time and your stress levels to name but a few. Though gaming is also one of the things that takes a hit when bringing a lovely, small, helpless person into the world.

Now, don’t read me wrong, this isn’t a yet another piece about how to squeeze gaming in as a new parent. Instead, what I wanted to discuss was something that I don’t believe has been mentioned in any of Sony’s pre-release Playstation 4 information so far: what are Sony’s plans for parental control on their new system?

In fact, let me back up a bit there; it’s not so much what are the plans, rather than how will the system be implemented?

Currently, with the PS3, you have a degree of parental control restrictions to make sure your children aren’t viewing inappropriate content. While this should never be a replacement for sitting with your child and monitoring what they are playing, it does mean they are safe from accidentally clicking something they shouldn’t. It’s not just about what they could play though – some splash screens could be considered disturbing for small children (e.g. Dead Nation, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare) so it makes sense to restrict some titles.

Despite the fairly confusing ‘level’ rating system, it does work, requiring the user to input a password to access restricted content. I have no major issue with this part of the system, although it would be nice to know which level equates to which age rating and such, without having to find out on the internet.

My main complaints about the current system are as follows: firstly, these restrictions are system wide, which may be a minor annoyance for me since my children are around the same age, but for those who have children with a bigger age gap it means they are all on the same age gate. Sometimes giving an older sibling a bit more responsibility than the younger one is a good way of showing them you trust them, though I would be unable to do this on the PS3. It’s not a massive complaint but surely one that can be fixed by applying different restrictions to each user rather than across the entire console itself?

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And while there are some provisions in place, in that you can create a sub account for your child, this is more suited to teenagers or older children as you’ll need to provide all their details (date of birth, e-mail address etc.) to get the account set up. Many people don’t want to hand out those details for very young children.

As it stands, with restrictions in place even I would have to put a password in to activate a restricted game. And I wouldn’t have a problem with that if it wasn’t for my second gripe: the awful way the PS3 deals with displaying restricted content. Everything restricted is hidden in a padlock folder with the file name “Parental Control Restricted Content”.

You have no way of knowing what the individual content actually is!

There doesn’t seem to be a way around this, short of creating a folder for every digital game or demo I own. It’s a very ‘all or nothing’ approach that I can’t quite get my head around. Why couldn’t they lock the file and splash screen but leave the name? How did they think people would manage to work out which title was which?

Of course, the PS3 was designed a long time before downloadable games and content were the norm. I expect they didn’t think they’d need too many restrictions beyond the disc-based products we know and love. From what I have seen of the UI on the Playstation 4 so far it looks like they have refined and streamlined a lot of aspects of it; I’m really hoping restrictions are one of them.

  1. cam the man
    Since: May 2009

    Never taken any notice of the parental control system on PS3 as I’ve no kids to worry about, well except my 9 year old niece who only uses it when I’m around. I can see the need for well designed parental controls for the PS4 as it’ll be a more connected console.

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 16:18.
  2. Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    Interesting. Hadn’t really thought about this sort of stuff. For me a password to log in and a password to buy stuff off the store is a large enough safety net as, like you mentioned in the article, I would make a point of sitting with my kids when they were playing, but I appreciate some people may want a more thorough set of restrictions.

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 16:22.
    • Greg Turner
      Since: Feb 2009

      I agree that the best protection is being there with them, although I’d be happy to add one more password for more mature games – if only I could then see what the actual games were!

      Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 16:40.
  3. Andrewww
    Since: Jan 2010

    Great this gets mentioned here, it’s definitely an important topic for many, including myself. So far my little ones do think the black box is just for playing Pixar DVDs, and I’ll keep it that way for a bit longer.

    Of course, there is always somebody there with the kids. But as much as I loved Dead Nation, I deleted it in the end because of the splash screen. I just did not want my little one’s mom, who doesn’t know the PS3 too well, to navigate there accidentially with the kids sitting next to her.

    Meanwhile, I always change parental restrictions to ‘off’, when I start it up and switch it to level 1 or 2 again before I leave. This is a pain, but given the bad design of this functionality at the moment, I don’t see any other way.

    Even then, I had the impression that some trailers of games for adults in the store could be watched irrespective of the setting, but I may be wrong there.

    @Sony: Very much hope the PS4 will resolve this in a better way…! ;o)

    Thanks a lot for bringing this up here…!

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 17:34.
    • Greg Turner
      Since: Feb 2009

      It was the same for me – Dead Nation was the one that did it for me too. Fantastic artwork but not something you’d want really young children seeing.

      As you said, hopefully Sony will tweak this for PS4 and we’ll all be happy!

      Comment posted on 29/08/2013 at 09:31.
  4. HunterGatherer
    Since: Jul 2013

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 18:21.
  5. CarBoyCam
    Since: Sep 2009

    I’m still waiting to see when Sony will finally realise that people with sub accounts do eventually hit puberty, graduate, move out etc. and allow sub accounts to be upgraded to master accounts…

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 18:27.
    • Greg Turner
      Since: Feb 2009

      That’s a really interesting point. Surely Sony will implement something like this going forward? With the console cycle going long this time an awful lot of sub account owners will now be grown up.

      Comment posted on 29/08/2013 at 09:34.
  6. TSBonyman
    Since: Dec 2009

    I’ve never needed to use the parental controls so i haven’t had that frustration but it was an interesting read. I expect they will improve the functonality on PS4 but we’ll just have to wait and see .. or you could try tweeting Yoshida – just remember to phrase your question so he can reply with a single word ;)

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 20:03.
    • Greg Turner
      Since: Feb 2009

      Great idea, I’ve just asked him on Twitter ;)

      Comment posted on 29/08/2013 at 09:38.
  7. beeje13
    Since: Jan 2010


    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 22:37.
    • beeje13
      Since: Jan 2010

      Well, I was meant to be replying to someone who apparently earned thousands working from home, seems to have gone now so that’s some fast moderating!

      Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 22:39.
  8. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    The one thing I’ve always wanted is to choose what I block for my kids, some level 5 stuff I think is to much where as some level 7 stuff is fine IMO. And the “what’s behind the padlock” game is infuriating! So, yes I’m hoping for big improvements with PS4. For those who don’t have kids you’d never think about it but all those who do should.

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 23:20.
  9. 2ofclubs
    Since: Sep 2008

    Create a separate account for you and for your kid(s). Restrict their levels accordingly and leave your account password protected, presuming you can of course (I’ve never tried).

    Still it would be handy to be able to restrict by the PEGI rating or by individual game. A bit more flexibility really.

    Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 23:29.
    • 2ofclubs
      Since: Sep 2008

      Turns out you can’t password protect user accounts, only the login to the PSN. My bad.

      Comment posted on 28/08/2013 at 23:34.
  10. LeftyFlip
    Since: Feb 2010

    Like you said, PS3/PS4 content controls are no replacement for parental responsibility but knowing there’s an adequate infrastructure in place to ensure your little ones aren’t going to blindly stumble on something they shouldn’t seen is definitely worth it. The fact that you can’t then see what any the content actually is, is kinda dumb.

    Looking forward to seeing where Sony take this stuff going forward. Great article.

    Comment posted on 29/08/2013 at 10:07.

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