Microsoft Corp., the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Super Bowl champion Jerry Rice joined forces today to unveil new parental tools as part of the second year of the “Safety is no game. Is your family set?” campaign. They include a PACT, a family contract intended to foster family discussion about screen time guidelines, as well as a new parental control feature, the Xbox 360 Family Timer. The Family Timer will enable parents for the first time to set the appropriate amount of gaming and entertainment time on the Xbox 360 for their kids, on a daily or weekly basis.
“As a leader in interactive entertainment, it’s Microsoft’s responsibility to provide parents with tools they can use to manage their children’s video gaming and online experiences, and we have made that a priority from the very start,” said Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft.
Through this all-new educational partnership, millions of PTA members nationwide will receive information on the fundamentals of the campaign, which encourages a balanced approach to interactive media use and families to come to an agreement on how their children spend their screen time.
“As times change and technology advances, the role of the parent stays the same in raising a safe, healthy and successful child,” said PTA National CEO Warlene Gary. “PTA is proud to partner with Microsoft to provide parents with more resources that keep them involved in their children’s lives. Using the PACT will help parents and children talk about and agree on interactive media use.”
The family PACT is a comprehensive, proactive approach to setting rules on media use, and asks parents and children to agree on the level of Parental involvement; the amount of Access children can have, including who they are allowed to play and interact with online; the types of Content children are allowed to play or watch; and the amount of Time children can use media. The family PACT is available for immediate download at http://www.xbox.com/isyourfamilyset.
Another all-new parental tool unveiled today is the Xbox 360 Family Timer, an addition to the console’s existing set of industry-leading parental control features. Similar to its Windows Vista counterpart, the new Xbox 360 Family Timer can restrict children’s activity time and can be set on a per-day or per-week basis. Helpful notifications will appear to warn the gamer that the session is nearing the end, and the feature will automatically turn off the console when the predetermined time limit has been exceeded. The Family Timer feature will be available for download via Xbox LIVE in early December.
Microsoft expects the news of the Family Timer to be received very favorably by parents based on independent* research it unveiled today that showed 62 percent of parents would welcome a tool to control the amount of time children spend using the video game consoles in their homes.
Bach, along with PTA CEO Warlene Gary and Super Bowl champion and “Dancing with the Stars” finalist Jerry Rice, talked to more than 400 students and parents gathered at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C., today, about the benefits of being a kid in the digital age and the challenges parents may face in navigating this complex new world.
The independent research sponsored by Microsoft released today asked parents a series of questions about their children’s use of digital media and represented feedback from 800 parents of children between the ages of 5 and 17 who have a video game console in their home. The research showed that 45 percent of parents say that enforcing rules about their children’s media consumption creates tension at home. Nearly all families (99 percent) have some rules, but less than half (47 percent) have comprehensive rules concerning access, content and time. The research revealed that only 16 percent of families actually put media-use rules in writing, and 40 percent of parents involve children in related discussions.
Rice spoke to the middle-school crowd about how important it is to have balance to be successful. “I’m a Super Bowl champion and a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ finalist, but my most important accomplishment in life is being a father,” Rice said. “I try to teach my kids that no matter what they do, they have to find a balance between work and fun. That’s why it’s so rewarding to join Microsoft and the PTA today to promote a healthy balance for our kids in this exciting digital age.”
Xbox was the first video game and entertainment system with built-in parental controls for both online and offline use. Known as Family Settings, these controls allow parents and caregivers to set guidelines for which games work for them, make informed choices about content, and decide with whom their children can play online. Earlier this year, Windows Vista launched with a similar set of parental controls that allows parents to guide children’s game playing, Web browsing and overall computer use. These controls help parents determine which games their children can play, which programs they can use, which Web sites they can visit — and when.
“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the robust parental controls offered on Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and the Xbox 360 Family Timer will continue to deliver on our promise to provide safer, balanced and fun entertainment for everyone,” Bach said. “Professionally, I am proud of my division’s work in this area, and personally, as a parent of three school-aged children, I know how important it is to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue with my family in order to uphold our household screen time rules.”
According to Bach, with more than 13 million Xbox 360 consoles sold, the company’s drive to empower parents is a core Microsoft responsibility. Last fall, the company launched the “Safety is no game. Is your family set?” national grassroots campaign with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Best Buy Co. Inc. to educate parents about the tools and resources available to help them manage their children’s interactive entertainment experiences on both Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. Year two of the campaign will continue with the support of these partners and others such as the PTA.