Childcare.co.uk did a study of 2000 parents. 85% admitted to not following age restrictions for games. And over half said they’d let their children play games with an 18+ certificate even though only a fifth will let them watch an 18 cert film.
Seriously?! Is it ok for little Bobby to play Modern Warfare 2 where he gets to mow down a bunch of civilians while walking through an airport with a machine gun?
I could link to the more examples but the above should be enough, especially if you look up the play-through on YouTube. I won’t link to it…
Games have many elements that might adversely affect your child. Every child is different and, as their parent, you have to make that decision on whether they play a game or not. Here’s some things to think about to help you make that decision:
What age group is the game?
Like films and TV series there are guidelines to what age group a game should be played by.
In Europe there is the PEGI rating system. In the US they have the ESRB.
As mentioned above, most parents don’t seem to care or aren’t aware. These are an easy first stop for you. There is also https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews where you can read reviews by adults and kids.
I have a post about game age certificates here.
Does it have Micro-transactions?
These are in game purchases. If you don’t want to risk your child emptying your bank account it is worth knowing if the game has them. I’ve dedicated a post to them here.
Are there any Gambling elements?
Many games take advantage of gambling mechanisms to extract money from players.
In Counter Strike, a very popular game played worldwide, you get awarded boxes at the end of a game, you then need to purchase a key to unlock the box and the player gets a random prize.
The player has to hope it’s a good one but more often than not, according to the odds, they won’t… Sound familiar? Of course, this is gambling.
Is it an online game?
Some games are playable online where your child will play alongside others from around the world. Unless they have pre arranged to play with friends then chances are they’ll be playing with randoms (random players from around the world) whose age, sex, location, beliefs are a mystery.
With young players, it’s a good idea to coach them in playing with others. Any age players should follow a few guidelines and I’ve written a couple of posts that might help:
Some advice for children playing online: link
A guide to choosing a name: link
Is it a time sink?
What games aren’t, if you’re a bit sceptical…
It’s worth being aware that some games require a hell of a lot of time investment before they are really enjoyable.
A fine example is Fortnite. People in the know have given a rough figure of 50 hours before you’re going to start being able to build competently and compete with those that can.
Some games involve grinding away at very similar quests for the player’s character to gain experience points to level up, World of Warcraft can take a long time to level up your character to able to adventure into higher level areas. Trying to get your children to self regulate these kind of games will be a nightmare.
So why do kids play violent games?
The most common factor in all games that your child wants to play is their peer group. “Little Terry next door is stabbing people in ‘Generic Fighty Game II’, why can’t I?”. As a parent, who wants their child to be happy, you will think, “well if he’s playing it, then it’s probably OK… and I don’t want my little darling to be left out”.
But now you know there are games with 18+ certificates lurking out there so you’ll always do your own research as, chances are, nobody else has.