We’ve recently partnered exclusively with Microsoft to offer Xbox All Access to our customers, and we’re thrilled to be able to have gaming available as an add-on to our plans for the first time. Here we round up some tips on how you can ensure your family has a safe and fun gaming experience with Xbox with Parental Controls.
We spoke to Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Xbox
Operations, Dave McCarthy, to find out how you can create a dialogue with your
kids about their online habits, and how you can ensure safe guardrails are in
place on your household Xbox.
Gaming for all
Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, recently penned his thoughts on what gaming should be as more and more families take up controllers everywhere. He recognised that gaming as a subculture shouldn’t belong to one particularly vocal group. Instead, communities like Xbox should strive to create a safe space where all players can come together harmoniously.
As part of this “gaming for all” mission, Spencer outlined
that Xbox would work to be “vigilant, proactive and swift” in combating abuse on
their platform. Furthermore, he committed Xbox and Microsoft to working across
the gaming industry on safety measures such as robust parental controls and
We’re a huge advocate of this mission. Together, our values
align perfectly with Microsoft’s around gaming, especially when it comes to
keeping families safe online to create spaces where everyone can thrive.
Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to set up your new
Xbox to be a safe and inclusive space with flexible and friendly parental
Content Filtering (now with smart AI)
Dave McCarthy told us he understands that “competitive
banter” is the by-product of online gaming, and filtering out potentially
offensive messages is one step that the product team could take immediately to
keep kids safer online.
“We’ve been moderating on Xbox Live now for almost 20 years.
The way it has worked up until now is that you could retroactively go and report
a user to our moderation team that works 24/7 around the globe to investigate,”
“What we’ve realised now is that in order to really be
effective at size and scale, we need to augment our human intelligence and our
moderators with artificial intelligence and machine learning models that run in
Microsoft has taken clever AI techniques and implemented
them to work alongside human moderators, helping to create safe spaces online
for all, starting with automated filtering of potentially offensive messages
and Gamertag pictures.
Smart Content Filtering enforces these guidelines by helping
to automatically filter out potentially offensive messages before their damage
can be done. The AI-powered, human moderator-backed feature can be customised
based on four levels of filtration: Friendly, Medium, Mature and Unfiltered. These
filtration levels work across all aspects of the Xbox ecosystem, starting with
private messages and expanding over time to tools that help players find other
likeminded gamers. That includes LFG, Clubs and the Xbox Activity Feed.
On your console, you can configure your message safety by
going to Settings > General >
Online safety & family > Message safety. Whenever you receive a
message that’s beyond your safety setting, it’ll be replaced with a [Potentially offensive message hidden]
placeholder. You can click on that placeholder to learn more about the
settings, and there’s a handy shortcut to change those settings. Adult accounts
will have the ability to choose whether to see what content has been filtered
based on the filter they choose.
McCarthy referenced Microsoft’s extremely rigorous Community Standards
document that acts as the North Star for all things moderation on Xbox Live,
saying that “they were really an effort to make sure people understood in plain
words what our value system is”.
“It gives players specific examples of what good looks like
and what crossing the line is overall,” he added.
Dave McCarthy’s team is now working hard to expand the AI
moderation and auto-filtration features across other aspects of the ecosystem.
“Ultimately…we want to try and make sure that we’re getting
into all areas of content and communication types on Xbox Live. We’re starting
with text because it is one of the biggest communication formats on Xbox Live
and there’s a lot that we can learn from that,” says McCarthy.
McCarthy adds that the human Moderation Team is also
constantly working to ensure that it sticks with the times. “We’re constantly
updating, and our model is trainable as well. Say all of a sudden we wanted to
ban the word ‘Luke’ from friendly conversations because it’s now sensitive and
offensive. We could put that in our tool and within 10 seconds around the
world, ‘Luke’ would be a word filtered out of our Friendly message settings in
21 languages around the world,” McCarthy explains.
Enable Smart Parental
Smart filtration automates the process of removing
potentially harmful messages from being sent to your kids before they have a
chance to see them. For everything else, there’s parental controls that can
allow you to manage healthy habits in the home as a parent.
Making sure kids spend the right amount of time on the Xbox
is also important, and with the most recent update, Microsoft allows you to filter
play time on a per game or app basis. That means you can give your child 1
hour on Minecraft, for example, while allowing 2 hours of Netflix streaming on
their Kids profile.
All this data is also recorded into a dashboard you can
view, digest and edit from anywhere in the world via an iOS or Android
smartphone or Windows computer.
And the Family Group settings for the Xbox One include the
essentials, like controlling access to content based on its rating; web
filtering and whitelisting, as well as cross-platform privacy and matchmaking
By creating a Family
Group with your Microsoft account, you can add your children’s Xbox
Accounts and set effective boundaries for their use of your new Xbox One.
Creating a Family Group allows you to first and foremost
control the games and apps that your children are purchasing for use on the
console. Instead of allowing them free reign to purchase potentially
inappropriate material, this control sends you an email when your kids want to
buy a game or an app so you can have a discussion on whether it’s appropriate.
Having the talk
It used to be that you could sit your kids in front of prescribed, child-friendly programming for the hours between when school ended and bedtime. But with the advent of smart devices and kids who are highly technically literate, parents can no longer be laissez-faire about their digital habits.
With almost every device in the home now connected to the Internet,
along with the breadth and depth of potentially inappropriate content now
accessible, parental controls are essential to helping you to make sure that
kids are being kept safe online.
With a Microsoft Family Account, you can receive a report
each week of how your child used the Xbox One, providing you with transparency
on how it was used. This report can be sent to just the parent/s or the
parent/s and the child/ren.
Dave McCarthy believes that – while parental control systems
are vital for protecting kids online – being able to have a conversation with
your kids about their habits is essential.
“[These features are] a conversation starter for our family.
It’s not about saying to your kids, ‘Hey, did you follow the hard and fast
rules or not?’ It’s: ‘Hey, we talked about not going onto YouTube and you still
tried to do it. Can I assume you have a good reason? What was it?’. And then
you get into the conversation on why they needed YouTube for that school
project. Awesome! Cool. Let’s go change that setting specifically and go there
“It’s about having these conversations with your kids. I
think, honestly, we need involvement on both sides. We need parents to lean in
and understand what the digital activities of their kids look like, and we need
kids to be able to be comfortable with all of these different tools and to have
a conversation with you as a parent about how you’re using it,” McCarthy says.
Before setting up a console with parental control features, it’s important to sit down with your kids and talk about what they want to use the device for, why and for how long. That way you can come to a compromise with your kids about how long they should spend gaming and watching other content.
It’s also a good opportunity to educate children about
engaging with the potentially harmful discourse they may encounter online and
arming the whole family with tools to identify and filter it.
“You know what’s best for your family; no technology can
ever replace that. The right tools can help make parenting easier and family
settings on Xbox does this by putting parents in control of what your children
can access across the platform,” McCarthy adds.
We’re excited to bring gaming to our customers via Xbox All Access, and we’re confident that with the right tools available on the console via Microsoft that all parents and kids can game together safely.