The Parent's Guide to Buying Video Game Consoles for Children

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The Parent's Guide to Buying Video Game Consoles for Children

During the 1980s, there were really only two home consoles, Nintendo or Sega, and almost all of the games available were child-friendly. In fact, "Mortal Kombat", a fighting game, sparked outrage when it first appeared due to large amounts of violence. By today's standards, those old gaming consoles were tame in comparison, which makes buying a gaming console for children difficult. Parents who grew up playing games want to allow their children to have the same kind of excitement, but they also want to make sure they are not exposing their child to games and themes aimed at adults. Therefore, parents shopping for a new console in a shop or online, using a website like eBay, must do a bit of research before buying the product in order to understand the different features. The best gaming consoles for children feature a large library of kid-friendly games, come with parental controls, and have limited online access.

The Big Three Gaming Platforms

There are three gaming companies that stand out from the rest: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Every few years these companies release a new console in order to one-up their competitors. Nintendo has the longest resume of the three, since it started making video games in the 1980s. Sony joined the ranks in the 1990s with the Playstation, and Microsoft followed later with the Xbox. All three of these systems have their pros and cons in relation to technical specifications, but this guide only examines them based on their child-friendly features.

Gaming Library

All of the three main consoles, along with many portable consoles also in production, feature a large collection of video games. After all, the main reason a consumer purchases one console over another is because he or she is investing in that console's gaming library. While some games are available on different consoles, many are limited to just one. Super Mario Bros., for example, only appears on Nintendo consoles.

Game Ratings

When it comes to looking at a console's gaming library, parents need to pay attention to ratings. Video games in the U.K. are rated according to the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system. It is somewhat similar to the rating system developed for DVDs and films.



Age Limit





May frighten small children

Above 7


Mild adult content

Above 12


Some adult content

Above 16


Extreme adult content

Above 18

Many games also include symbols that describe the content within the game. For example, the spider symbol represents fear, and the game could be too frightening for young children. A syringe symbol means that drug use appears in the game, another problem area for parents who do not want their young children exposed to this subject.

U.K. laws forbid selling a game to anyone who is under the age rating. However, sometimes parents buy these games for their children without paying attention to the rating, simply because the child wants it. The best way that a parent can make sure that his or her child is playing appropriate games is to pay attention to the rating.

Child-Friendly Platforms

All of the three main consoles have games that come in a wide array of ratings. However, certain consoles tend to have more of one type than the other. The Xbox and Xbox 360 caters more to the adult gamer and tends to have a larger selection of adult games than the other platforms. Sony's Playstation consoles, including the Playstation 3 , have more family-friendly games than the Xbox, but there is still a large selection of adult games. Nintendo consoles, especially the Wii, cater mostly towards family games. Nintendo has the largest selection of appropriate games for even very small children.

Parental Controls

Sometimes even under the best circumstances, a child may end up borrowing a game from a friend's house that contains questionable content or a parent may end up purchasing a game without reading the rating label first. If this happens, the parental control settings on the console are a measure of last resort. Parents can plug in a rating limit onto the console, and then lock it by using a password. For example, if a parent does not want the console to play games with an 18 rating, he or she sets up the parental controls to block 18-rated games. If one of these games is entered into the console, the disc does not play unless the password to override the parental control system is entered.

All of the three main platforms come with parental controls. Accessing the parental control section can be difficult, especially if the parents are unfamiliar with the gaming console. Read the owner's manual for the product for exact instructions on how to set up and manage parental controls

Online Access

The Internet continues to change how society communicates, and on the gaming console frontier, the Internet is changing how people play with one another. There was a time when, if gamers wanted to play against their friends, everybody had to be in the same room. Now with the advent of Wi-Fi Internet connections, all three of the main console manufacturers offer some type of online access. How much of a factor this is depends on the age of the child and the concern of the parents.

Parental Concerns

Parents monitor their children's use of the Internet, but many do not consider doing the same with video games because they do not understand the power of the console they just purchased. Many of the games that allow players to compete against one another online allow gamers to use headsets for talking and exchanging information. There is very little regulation about what goes on in these virtual worlds, and any minor who is playing the game is at risk of listening to adult-oriented conversations. Perhaps the best way to prevent this is for parents to refrain from buying games marketed towards adults, even if their son or daughter wants it. Adult-oriented games attract adult players, while the games aimed at children usually do not offer any in-depth online interactivity.

Controlling Internet Access

All three of the major gaming companies have monitored controls built into their consoles that can block an Internet connection. Similar to how the parental controls block games of a certain rating from being played, the Internet block refuses to allow the console to connect to the Internet without a password.

Completely blocking the Internet may seem like an extreme step. The Nintendo Wii, for example, offers limited Internet connectivity. Players can create their own avatars and share them online, and certain games, such as the Mario Kart Wii, allow players to compete online against other players. However, the Wii setup does not allow for the same in-depth connectivity offered by the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. This makes the Wii a good choice for parents who want to allow their child some freedom without having to restrict the Internet completely.

Portable Consoles

Parents often buy portable consoles for their child to take along on long road trips or family vacations. Modern portable consoles work just like their larger counterparts, and many come with extensive gaming libraries. Again, Nintendo consoles, like the Nintendo DS or 3DS , offer more child-friendly games than other choices, such as Playstation's PSP.

How to Buy Video Game Consoles for Children on eBay

Parents who are looking for gaming consoles can save some money by deciding to shop on eBay. Every year, many new shoppers join eBay to find incredible deals on new and used merchandise. Buying a used console for a child is a good idea, especially if the child is going to outgrow many child-friendly games within a few years. Just make sure that the console is in good condition and never purchase a model that seems to be flawed in any way.

You can search for different models by typing "video game consoles" into eBay's search engine. This creates a set of results stretching across different brands and consoles. If, after doing your research, you prefer one brand over another, you can limit your search by typing " Playstation consoles ", or whatever you choose, into the search engine. If you have a specific console in mind, such as the Nintendo Wii, then type " Nintendo Wii " into the search engine to only pull relevant results.


Video game consoles have evolved into powerful performance machines, and as they once existed to attract children, many of the modern systems are aimed at both adults and children. This presents a problem for parents who want to purchase a platform for their child, but do not want to buy one that puts their child at risk of being exposed to adult situations. The best way to go about buying a console is to do some research into the different models. Study the games available and determine which ones seem suitable for young children. Take the time to read about setting up the parental control system and learn how to block access to the Internet if it is a concern. Not all consoles connect to the Internet, but most of the modern systems do. By using these guidelines to purchase the perfect product on eBay, parents can purchase a console where their children can play safely.

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