A study by an Illinois-based research group called User Centric, Inc. has found “usability problems” with parental controls in videogame consoles.

The study tested an unnamed game console with 20 parents and 20 children aged 9-12 years old. Participants were asked to set up parental controls, and rate the device based on ease of setup as well as their confidence in properly setting the controls. Along with the console, the tests were also applied to a V-Chip-equipped television, a digital video recorder and a mobile phone marketed for use by children under 10.

Results indicated a high rate of failure in setting the controls, ranging from 31 percent failure for the DVR to a high of 47 percent for the console. Parents and children experienced similar failure rates, as did participants who claimed to have experience with setting parental controls. A full one-third of the participants failed to properly set parental controls on any of the devices, and many who believed they had set the controls actually had not.

There was also a significant lack of understanding of rating systems and their relationship to parental controls. “When using the game console, participants were confused whether their selection represented the highest rating allow[ed] or the lowest rating blocked (despite explanations displayed onscreen),” the report said.

“Overall, User Centric found that participants’ lack of understanding about ratings compromised their ability to successfully set up parental controls and that parents may be more confident than they should be that the controls are properly set.”

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