By Kim Kunes, General Manager, Xbox Trust & Safety
The holidays are an important time to connect and enjoy our families, and gaming can be the perfect activity for family fun and togetherness. Your kids may even teach you a thing or two about how to master one of their favorite games! But at Xbox, we believe that balancing gaming with time away from screens is essential and know that it can often be an ongoing challenge for parents to navigate with kids.
To help make the most of gaming over the holidays and beyond, we have three tips for parents on how to manage and monitor children’s screen time.
Lean on safety tools
Knowledge is key and having visibility into what your kids are playing, how much time they’re spending while gaming and who they can play and communicate with will help put your mind at ease. The most important tip to know is that your kid should be playing with a child or teen account, depending on their age. It’s an essential first step to safer gaming and includes default account settings to help ensure they have a positive experience. To learn more about how to do this on Xbox, visit: Create a child account and add family members on Xbox | Xbox Support.
As well, gaming consoles and PCs offer safety tools for families that empower you to customize and manage your child’s access to gaming. For example, if you game with Xbox, the Xbox Family Settings App is a must-have tool for parents and caregivers. It’s available for free on iOS and Android and allows parents to:
- Easily and quickly create child accounts
- Customize and update screen time limits for each day of the week
- Receive activity reports with an overview of your child’s activities
- Manage who your children can play and communicate with
- Set age filters to block games and content that aren’t age-appropriate
- Receive notifications with requests to extend your child’s screen time – which you can decline or approve
- Manage and limit their spending
…and much more – all for free and right from your fingertips.
If you don’t play on Xbox, SuperParent offers helpful information about safety tools across other gaming platforms.
Communication and balance are essential
We’ve all been through the familiar cycle of evaluating how much screen time is right for our kids – and this can change by each week or with each day!
Over the past year, children in the U.S. largely attended school through a screen, which has changed the role of screens in our lives. We believe it’s important that parents play an active role in their children’s online activities by doing three important things; use advanced safety tools on devices and gaming platforms, talk with your kids about their online activities, and set clear household online rules. To help, here are a few ways to get the conversation started:
- Ask what your child’s favorite games are, what they like most about them and which friends they play with; share a few of your favorite games, too
- Together, make a short list of important chores or to-do’s that should be prioritized before gaming
- Work with your child to make a list of gaming or screen time rules for your family:
- How much screen time you and your child believe is reasonable for them to have on a school-night versus the weekend
- Which game ratings you and your child believe are appropriate for them, i.e., only games rated E for Everyone or some, but not all, games rated T for Teen
- Discuss your favorite activities to do as a family that do not include screens
The goal of having these conversations early on is to set a strong foundation and the right balance of gaming and screen time with your family. We believe that when you involve your child in the decision-making process, they will feel empowered to take ownership of their gaming time and it can help build responsible tech use habits they could have for life.
Gaming is a way to connect and bond
Studies have found that gaming can benefit kids’ learning in the classroom and playing as a family can be a great opportunity to connect with your children (so take advantage of it!). Your kids will feel proud that their parents can play video games with them – especially if they beat you at a game or can teach you a few tricks. Your kids may even brag about it with their friends! Take the time to explore new games, challenge them, have some laughs, and bond through this activity.
Use the screen time limits in the Xbox Family Settings app to set aside an appropriate amount of time to explore a new world or work together to complete a challenge. Our suggestion is to start by playing your child’s favorite game together, though here are a few of our favorite family-friendly games to help get you started:
- “Forza Horizon 5” (Rated E). Explore the vibrant and ever-evolving open world landscapes of Mexico with limitless, fun driving action in hundreds of the world’s greatest cars.
- “Madden NFL 21” (Rated E). A new generation is leaving its mark on the NFL. Will you rise to the occasion? Change the game and take control of your own legacy.
- “Minecraft Dungeons” (Rated E 10+). Fight your way through Minecraft Dungeons, an action-adventure game inspired by classic dungeon crawlers and set in the Minecraft universe! Brave the dungeons alone, or team up with friends!
- “Minecraft” (Rated E 10+). Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and going on adventures where you can join a community of 132M players from every country and territory around the world. Build anything you can imagine with unlimited resources in Creative mode, or go on grand expeditions in Survival, journeying across mysterious lands and into the depths of your own infinite worlds.
- “Sea of Thieves” (Rated T). Sea of Thieves offers the essential pirate experience, packed to the seams with sailing and exploring, fighting and plundering, riddle solving and treasure hunting – everything you need to live the pirate life you’ve always dreamed about. With no set roles, you have complete freedom to approach the world, and other players, however you choose.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with how to play, or if you or your child are new to using a controller, fear not! The Copilot feature on Xbox lets you use two controllers as one and is a perfect way to work together.
Most importantly, each family will have their own unique guidelines for gaming in their lives; what’s right for one family may not work for yours, and that’s okay. We hope that during this holiday season and beyond, your family can spend quality time together through the games you love.
To learn more about the Xbox Family Settings app, please click here.
Kim Kunes is the General Manager of the Xbox Family, Trust, and Safety team. Her team focuses on investing in technology and features to give our players peace of mind knowing they are safe, secure, and can bring their friends and family to our community. As the nexus of safety interests for team Xbox, her team is also responsible for working across Microsoft to advocate for and ensure consistent safety standards that apply across all Microsoft consumer experiences.
Top image © Ruth Black / Adobe Stock