For many parents and carers finding out that your child is playing a game designed for older children can be a worry. You might be concerned about what they are seeing or hearing in the game or about the behaviour of other players. In this blog we will take a closer look at the ratings in games, give you practical ways to respond to your child and signpost places to find alternative games that are more appropriate.
How are ratings decided?
Games in the UK are rated by PEGI, as well as being used for physical games you will see these ratings when downloading games and apps in the Windows and Google Play stores on your mobile or tablet. Those ratings are there to help families decide whether a game is appropriate for their child or not, and are based on the content of the game, just like films. Games that contain content like violence and bad language will have higher age ratings, whereas those without fighting or explicit content will have lower ratings. The age ratings are 3,7, 12, 16 and 18.
It is important to remember that whilst these ratings take into consideration the content on screen in a game they do not rate content that is created by users, such as in in-game chats or user behaviour.
How can I respond when they mention games?
When you find out that your child is playing games that are too old for them it is important to remain calm (even though you may feel alarmed). It is a really good idea to do your own research about the game and then talk to your child. Search for the game on sites like the Family Video Game Database, PEGI or Common Sense Media to find out more about the game, the age rating and read reviews from both experts and other parents. Once you have taken a look at the game, speak to your child and ask them things like:
- What is the game about?
- How much have you been playing the game?
- Do your friends play it too?
- What do you like about the game?
- What are the other players like?
- Have you ever had to report or block anyone?
Once you have listened to them you can discuss the concerns that you have and decide on the best way forward. If you feel that the game might be ok for your child after all, you could ask them to show you or even play the game together to be sure. If you decide that actually the game isn’t right for your child then you can take the next steps in finding an alternative, or setting parameters for when the game may become suitable i.e. they can play when they turn 13.
How can I find alternative games?
If you feel that the game is not age appropriate, then it is a good idea to find some alternatives. A great way to do this is to visit the Family Video Game Database together. Search for the game that your child is playing and at the bottom of the review it will show you similar games and their age ratings. Together, you can have a look at these other games and decide on one that is appropriate for their age. If your child is aged 14 and has been playing a 16 rated game, you can look for 12 rated games that they might enjoy.
Are there parental controls I can use?
It is illegal for a child to buy a 12, 16 or 18 rated game in a shop but this law does not apply online. Putting parental controls on the devices they use (as you can play games on a PC, phone, tablet as well as on games consoles) will help reduce the chances of your child seeing or downloading something inappropriate for their age. These controls can be set in place so that a pin is needed to download content, or can stop age inappropriate games from being viewed at all.
Key things you can try
We know that if you don’t play, gaming can feel like an alien world but it does not have to be this way. Whether you have never played a video game or you are an avid gamer, it is a really good idea to have a go and have fun playing games as a family. We have heard of parents saying how much they have enjoyed playing games and that it really helped them to understand why their children love gaming so much too.
Our 3 key tips to keeping your children safe when gaming
- Keep an open dialogue so that you are always talking about their lives online.
- Take an active interest in what your child is doing online. You could even play some games together.
- Use parental controls to minimise the risk of them seeing or experiencing something upsetting.
Further information from Childnet
- This video from the Video Standards Council explains how and why games are rated.
Useful sites for you and your children: