Help! My child wants to play games that are too old for them.
This week's Online Safety Blog comes from The UK Safer Internet Centre, who offer a wide range of guides and advice on keeping safe online.
Many young people begin their online interaction from a young age, and gaming can make up a large part of this.
As your child gets older, the type of games they want to play may change. We often hear from parents and carers that they are worried about what their child may see, hear or experience in new games, especially if the age rating is older than their child currently is.
Here, the UK Safer Internet Centre shares practical tips for what to do if your child approaches you asking to play a new game.
Work out why your child is interested in this game
There are many positives to young people playing games on their devices , such as learning new skills or supporting them with their learning. Games are a fun way of interacting with friends and for many, can make them feel calmer, more in control or bring a sense of community and belonging.
Gaming can also be a very social activity and many popular games are a central feature in playground conversation. This this can make some young people feel excluded if they’re not playing the same games as their friends. This fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’ may mean they want to try the game, whether they have a genuine interest in it or not.
Talk to your child to determine why they want to play the game. It may be they have a genuine interest, but if it is because they’re worried about missing out, then you have an ideal opportunity to discuss peer pressure and how important it is to find things they enjoy for themselves.
Research the game, its age rating, users and user reviews
The next step is to find out more about the game. Search for the game online to see it’s PEGI rating, to identify what age it is suitable for. You can also find out more about the game by reading reviews or even watching online videos of gameplay.
Common Sense Media provide helpful descriptions, screenshots and reviews of games from fellow parents and carers, as well as young people themselves.
The Family Gaming Database offers detailed advice on lots of games, covering age ratings, in-game purchases and more.
Make a decision and talk this through with your child
Whatever you decide, it’s important to communicate this clearly and calmly with your child.
If the answer is no, have a calm and open discussion to explain why you are not comfortable with them playing the game. If the PEGI rating is over their actual age, it can be helpful to talk through the content identified by PEGI when rating the game. You can also discuss revisiting the conversation once they reach that age.
You can still decide a game isn’t right for your family, even if your child is over the suggested age rating of the game. You know your child best and there may be games that do not suit your child or your family’s values.
If the game is age appropriate, and you’re comfortable enough to allow your child to sign up, make sure they understand rules and boundaries before they begin. This includes how they communicate with others, what they share online and to come to you if anything worries or upsets them.
The Childnet Family Agreement is a useful tool to help set expectations and decide these boundaries from the outset.
For help finding suitable games for your child:
PEGI PEGI provides age classifications for video games in 38 European countries. The age rating confirms that the game content is appropriate for players of certain age. PEGI considers the age suitability of a game, not the level of difficulty.
For advice around gaming