A game console is the kind of video game box that you connect to your TV, and either buy or rent DVDs to play on them. The most common examples are xBox from Microsoft, PlayStation from Sony, and Wii from Nintendo. Many people don’t realize that most of these game consoles today have the ability to connect to the Internet, and could be a source of unfiltered Internet access within your home.
The primary reason that these game consoles have Internet access is to allow you to connect to someone outside of your home and play a game in real-time with them. While this has its own set of dangers (where do you think the predators are going to hang out, if they want to meet your children?), that is a subject for a future blog post. The danger I want to discuss today is the little-known fact (among parents, that is) that many of these consoles also have a built-in web browser which will use that same Internet connection to simply browse the web.
Yup- that’s right – if your console is connected to the web, it is entirely possibly, even probable, that it is being used to browse the Internet, unfiltered by the PC-based filter you may have installed on the computers in your home. This doesn’t mean that it is being used to see content that the filter would prohibit – but the possibility certainly exists. And, if you are using a PC-based filter, the activity from the game console would NOT show up in your usage reports either – it is a completely separate device that does not report its activity to your filter.
The good news is that most of these consoles have parental controls built in. Although you cannot install your own filter, you can set the console to allow the level of access you desire in your home.
If you have a game console in your home, check to see if it is connected to the Internet. Many of these consoles have the ability to disable the web browser while still allowing connections to others in the games, so don’t worry that you are going to limit the “live” experience of interactive gaming, if that is what you purchased the console for. Of course, you can also close down the Internet connection completely from these boxes, and leave the gaming to those within the walls of your home, if you so desire.
Finally, remember that the parental controls on these boxes allow you to set the level of access that is appropriate for your home – use them! Set the parental controls to only allow the ESRB ratings that are appropriate for your family (see the ratings here). And, communicate with your children – know what games they are playing, with whom, and when.