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Protect your children: How to set Xbox 360 parental controls

A short guide to setting up your Xbox 360 to only let your child play acceptable games.

The Xbox 360 has a ton of great games, but not all of them are meant for children. You may have fun chainsawing zombies in Dead Rising or immolating deranged splicers in Bioshock, but your young child could get nightmares. Fortunately, the Xbox 360 has a parental control system where you can set it to make certain that little Timmy only plays E- or T-rated games, while you can still enjoy your ultraviolent carnage. This guide will walk you through the process of making your Xbox 360 safe for your children.

Please note: The Xbox 360 uses game ratings designed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Like the MPAA and movie ratings, the ESRB divides games into age-based categories, including E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature. For more information on the ESRB rating system, visit their Web site.

Step 1: Start your Xbox 360. It should boot to the Dashboard. If it immediately starts a game, press the Xbox Guide button (the big round green X in the middle of the controller) and press Y to go to the Dashboard.

Step 2: Hold right on the control stick or pad until you reach the System blade of the Dashboard.

Step 3: Enter the "Family Settings" menu.

Step 4: Enter the "Console Controls" menu.

Step 5: Enter the "Game Ratings" menu (note: If you play DVDs or download videos on your Xbox 360, you can set video playback settings in the "Video Ratings" menu. The process is similar to setting up game restrictions).

Step 6: Select the highest rating you want the Xbox 360 to play without prompting for a pass code.

Step 7: Enter the "Set Pass Code" menu.

Step 8: Select "Pass Code."

Step 9: Set your pass code using the buttons on your controller. Write down the combination of buttons in case you forget.

Step 10: Once you've entered the pass code, select the question you want the Xbox 360 to ask if you forget the code, and enter the answer. Make sure it's a question and answer you will remember, but that your children won't figure out.

Step 11: Select "Done" and you're finished. The Xbox 360 will now only play games of your preferred rating or lower. If you try to use a higher-rated game, the system will prompt you for the pass code.