Parents….if you are thinking about buying a PS5 and setting it up with a child account for your under-18, then I’ve some advice for you. Don’t. It’s a total nightmare that I bitterly regret because of the endless disappointment, wasted time and Sony’s poor information. If you want a child-friendly gaming console, buy a Nintendo Switch.
Last Christmas, Santa Claus brought my son a PlayStation 5 – he’s a lucky boy. As a good parent, I set up the PS5 in my name and added him as a family member. What a mistake! Sony makes parental controls an exercise in frustration. The main problem is that when you come up against a problem, you simply don’t know whether you are doing something wrong or whether it’s a parental control that you can (or can’t) tweak.
The basic parental controls on the PS5 are pretty straightforward. If my son wants to play a game within his age rating, he can go ahead and play the game straightaway. If the age rating is above his age, he can ask for approval to play. That request comes to me and I can accept or reject it. Most of the time that works but it’s not frictionless – there’s too much mucking about with logging in or using the PlayStation app with 2FA.
On top of that, some game manufacturers seem to put on their own age limit, and prevent anyone from playing under their age guidance and there’s no option to request parental permission. But you don’t know that when you buy the game and it’s not made clear even in-game when you come up against the problem. Is it a setting that I have to tweak or is it a hard limit? Sony’s instructions suggest that he should be able ask for permission but Crew 2 doesn’t offer an option, even though he’s in their suggested age window. I currently have a call logged with Ubisoft for this one.
The biggest issue over the past while has been with in-game voice chat in Fortnite – every time you tried to enable the feature it gave an error, but there was no indication whether this was a technical fault or conflict with PS5 parental controls. It turns out it was a technical issue that Epic has finally fixed.
But here’s another example with Fortnite. On the Nintendo Switch, if my son wants to buy V-bucks in Fortnite, all I need to do is use my credit or debit card details to get the V-bucks. Once that’s done, the V-bucks are in his account and he can spend them as he likes. Compare this with the PS5, where we see this super helpful message on the V-bucks purchasing page.
The way around it for the PlayStation 5 is for me to buy V-bucks in Fortnite, then purchase the in-game items he wants and gift them to him but it’s a total waste of my time. You have to go through the same process if he gets a V-bucks card as a gift. Surely a V-bucks gift card is the ideal way to control a child’s spending?
Next in the bad books was Spotify. We have a family subscription and there are profiles for everyone. The PS5 had a new native app, replacing the PS4 version. I downloaded the app, logged in as myself and played my tunes – everything was working. When my son tried to start the app, an error appeared saying that Spotify couldn’t start while he was logged in. And that’s it. No explanation as to what parental control was preventing the app from running, no opportunity for him to request access. It’s a complete joke. Eventually, it was fixed without explanation.
And Sony is almost impossible to get hold of for any queries. The Playstation Support pages are about as useful as a chocolate teapot, although there’s an online assistant that will connect you with community experts. TBH, they’re not much use. Any time I’ve used them, it’s “I think you can’t do that” or “Have you checked the online help?”
There is nothing worse that the disappointment of your child when he rushes home with a new game only to find it doesn’t work and Dad has to spend hours on-line trying to sort it out. Santa won’t be buying a PS6.