Childproofing the PlayStation 3: Parental Control Guidance

Does setting up the PS3 security mean you can relax? Well no, not even if it did work as intended. Which it doesn't.

My final challenge for integrating a PlayStation 3 into my parents' everyday lives was to make it a safe proposition to leave in the hands of grandchildren who are currently all under the age of 10.

This proved to be like the end-of-level boss of the PS3 set up. I really don't know what Sony were thinking with their bizarre parental control system, but with a bit a due diligence, I figured it out so you won't have to.

Riddle Me This...

A first visit to the security settings option on the PS3 user interface makes it appear that there is a high degree of flexibility to the level of parental control available, with a single 4-digit passcode required in circumstances specific to your requirements. Access to Blu-Ray, DVD, Game and Internet content can be set independently of one another.

So far, so logical.

But pay attention, things are going to get a bit weird. Each of the security measures has an entirely different and often arbitrary grading system to define what requires a password challenge.

Blu-Ray Security by Age (0-254)

Blu-Ray parental restrictions are defined by selecting an age. According to the on-screen instructions, “The lower the age, the higher the restriction. The highest restriction is for age 0.” Amusingly, the age range can be set as high as 254. Now that's some optimistic future-proofing by Sony (I considered setting mine to 254 years anyway, just to mess with The Doctor or Yoda if they popped by, but then I realised sonic screwdrivers and The Force made it a pointless measure. Reality was a lesser consideration.)

However, the official PlayStation Support website states:

“Note that not all Blu-ray movies are compatible with this setting.” - PlayStation Support Website

In my opinion, if it cannot be relied upon, it renders the entire system pointless. I tested Kick-Ass (rated R/15) and Rise of the Planet of the Planet of the Apes (rated PG-13/12A) and was able to play both irrespective of how the security was set.

PARENTAL WARNING: Do not rely on this setting as a security measure. High shelves and locked cupboards are more reliable means of preventing access to inappropriate content.

DVD Security by Level (1-8)

This vague security scale is defined on-screen only as “The lower the level, the tighter the restriction.” and even checking official documentation online only yields the following explanation:

“The level of a DVD is set by the publisher and therefore the DVD parental control levels on the PS3 does not correspond to a specific movie rating. Note that not all DVD movies are compatible with this setting.” - PlayStation Support Website.

After some digging, it transpires that this is a reference to the Parental Management Level (PML) used in the manufacture of DVDs. This system supposedly maps to the MPAA ratings system as used in the United States and Canada as follows. I've extrapolated the UK's BBFC ratings too, but it's not exact:

PML      MPAA     BBFC
   2             G            U
   3            PG         PG
   4         PG-13    12/12A
   5                           15
   6              R
   7         NC-17       18
   8           Adult

Given that every country has its own motion picture rating system it is understandable that Sony needed to find a ubiquitous international method. However, like the Blu-Ray security, this system is too unreliable. I tried several DVDs at a variety of security settings and even with at the most stringent Level 1, I was still able to watch the brutal opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan (rated R/15).

PARENTAL WARNING: Do not rely on this setting as a security measure. High shelves and locked cupboards are more reliable means of preventing access to inappropriate content.

NEXT: Age Appropriate Gaming and Credit Card Protection


PlayStation 3 Retirement Assignment Series

  1. The Family Fallback for 'The Other Room'
  2. Making the PS3 Grandparent Friendly
  3. Childproofing the PlayStation 3: Parental Control Guidance
  4. PlayStation 3: Age Appropriate Gaming and Protecting Your Credit Card

Featured Columnist

Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.

Games Family Games Genres FamilyKids Platforms PlayStation 3
Published Jun. 13th 2013

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