Using Parental Controls On Xbox One

Xbox One is the latest-generation of Microsoft’s video game console, and after three versions of the Xbox, the tech giant has mostly figured out how to keep parents happy with their content settings. The problem is, you might need a few different electronic devices, passwords and maybe even a credit card handy to set it all up.

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Xbox One has a lot of different options to restrict purchases, play games of a certain rating and allow for guest accounts that have varying levels of access to features of the console. But it can all be a bit confusing, especially because the device can do much more than just play video games. The console is a true entertainment vehicle, allowing access to applications like Netflix, web browsing, listening to music and watching movies through the system’s BluRay player.

The end result is a wide variety of options to limit specific parts of the multimedia world you’d rather a child not see. And even in a game itself, playing online creates its own set of extra parameters.

Consider, for example, a game rated for all ages like Rocket League. It’s a quick, highly-addictive car soccer game that’s ESRB-rated E and contains no vulgarity or sexual content. But it is a game that can be played online, with strangers, and with headsets used to communicate in-game. Limiting access to strangers online is just one of the things a parent needs to think about when allowing a child access to the console — especially if it’s unsupervised access.

[More of a Nintendo family? Check out our article Using Parental Controls On Nintendo Switch.]

Unlike Nintendo, which has a pretty powerful phone application you can use to set and monitor limits on gaming remotely, most Xbox One settings must be taken care of on the console itself. This is complicated slightly by some Microsoft account settings, but Xbox One allows for individual restrictions and passwords for multiple family members, something Nintendo’s Switch currently lacks.

Creating A Family Account

The best way to take advantage of Xbox One’s security settings is to set yourself up as the administrator of your family’s console, then set individual guidelines and restrictions for various members of the family. You do this on the settings page of the console’s home screen. Sign in with your Microsoft account and complete the “My sign-in, security & passkey” setup to add some basic privacy settings to your account. 

From there, you add another family member’s Microsoft account to the console to manage family members and set up restrictions. If you haven’t given your child a Microsoft account yet, which is understandable, this option doesn’t help very much. But it is one way to delineate the content restrictions and limitations of each individual using the Xbox, especially if they are playing online games or doing different things on the console. You can also restrict the overall account’s content and filter web results if the child somehow stumbles into the Internet Explorer browser on the console and uses it to access the web.

If a child using an account with parental controls tries to access a game or any other content above their current restrictions, a parent does have the option to approve the app with permission. A login screen will ask for the adult’s login and passkey to approve the use, either “always” or “just this once.” 

Creating A Guest Key

An account administrator can set up a guest key, which is a 6-digit password that allows someone access to restricted content when entered correctly. Once a guest key has been entered, the “Access to Content & Apps” menu can be set at different levels for various kinds of content based on age (ages 3 to 18).

Whichever age is picked changes the ratings allowed for various games, movies, TV, music and apps. Content appropriate for up to age 12, for example, allows for games and apps ESRB rated 10 and up, movies and TV rated PG (9 and up) and music rated for “all ages.” Change that rating to age 13 and up, however, and games and apps ESRB rated T for teen and PG-13 movies will be allowed. 

For the record, R-rated movies and music with a Parental Advisory warning are allowed at age 17, along with games ESRB rated M for mature, while unrestricted content includes NC-17 movies and games and apps ESRB rated A. The system is designed to allow new ratings as a child grows older, though the changes are across the board for an age and not able to be altered. 

The guest key features in the System tab also restrict people from downloading new apps or creating new accounts to bypass restrictions on a current account, which is a smart feature which eliminates potential workarounds to any restrictions in place. 

Xbox Profile Privacy Settings

You’ll also want to check the privacy settings on your Xbox account itself, and the profile you create. There are three default settings: child, teen, and adult, which impact and limit communication and purchase ability of the account itself. The “child defaults” allow children to play and download free games and other content and make video highlights of in-game moments. They can also see other people’s profiles, but need adult permission to add friends or do other social functions.

Meanwhile, other gamers have limited access to the child’s account and will not see their real name. The “teen defaults” and “adult defaults” have fewer restrictions, and these individual details can also be fully customized if you want to limit your account or communication in any way.

The customization for Xbox Live profiles is quite robust, limiting anything from how much you share about your gaming history, availability to be seen by friends as online, and even whether you want to communicate while playing online. You can allow “everyone” or just friends to see various things, or block the feature altogether.

This is handy if you want your child, for example, to play Rocket League while being blissfully unaware of the sometimes profane audio that often comes with it during online play. Such settings may also be altered in individual game menus, but doing it through the Xbox Live profile makes the restrictions apply on all games. 

Managing Time Limits

Microsoft is a computer company first and foremost, so unfortunately, some of the more detailed parental controls must be managed directly through a Microsoft account and set up in a web browser. It’s possible to do that through the Xbox One’s Internet Explorer browser, but it’s admittedly clunky and better left to a real computer. 

By visiting, you can sign into your Microsoft account and set up restrictions for the new account. The child needs to have an email address, or you need to set one up for them. It’s certainly a more tedious process than on the Switch, and setting up a Microsoft account gives the child potential access to other Microsoft products such as Skype.

The signup process will actually cost you money, too. In order to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, entry of a credit card is required and will actually be charged $0.50, to make sure you’re an adult. Microsoft says the money goes to charity, but all of this work seems a bit excessive just to limit screen time. 

Once you’ve paid the piper, though, you can limit access to the console during certain times of specific days for the account you’ve added. Other restrictions can be levied directly through the Xbox One console — the restrictions should be found in the Family Settings portion of your Settings menu.

Ryan Nagelhout

Ryan Nagelhout

Ryan Nagelhout is a freelance writer who has published hundreds of children’s books on topics from Apollo 11 to honeybees and Thomas Paine. His writing can be found on, Buffalo Spree and even in some newspapers sometimes. He lives in Niagara Falls, New York and has approximate knowledge of many things.

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