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Tools To Ensure Healthy and Appropriate Gaming

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These tools are available on all consoles and enable you to control spending, screen-time and limit access to games by age-rating.

As reported by the Children’s Commissioner in October 2019, 93% of children in the UK play video games. They are popular entertainment that offers a wide range of experiences that spark imagination, creativity, competition and encourage social interactions.

As the report highlights, “Children say online gaming extends normal play into the digital landscape and provides a chance to make new friends.”

Although the report raises concerns over the levels of spending by children in games, the good news for parents is that all modern consoles provide excellent tools to guide and limit both monetary spending and time spent playing.

Monthly spending limits can be quickly set-up on child accounts on PlayStation 4. You can add limited funds on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. On any console, you can add a password to ensure that your child needs to talk to you about a game or in-game purchase before purchasing it.

These tools not only ensure you are in control of any spending but create a context for you to discuss virtual items and value with your child. Understanding what Loot Boxes are, or other ways of buying items in games will help both you and children make informed decisions.

Family Playing Together

Loot Boxes offer in-game items that vary in popularity. From next year, console makers will be revealing how likely you are to get particular items before making a purchase. It’s important to understand that these items are often optional, and don’t offer an in-game benefit other than changing the appearance of the character.

These discussions and helping parents develop literacy and confidence about video games are essential to empower them to play the role in guiding their children. When parents and carers play games themselves or establish gaming as something the family does together, the benefits from the activity increase greatly. 

The report also suggests that online games should have a legally enforced age rating as boxed games currently do. The good news is that all the console platform holders already voluntarily enforce this strictly for every game sold.

The PEGI ratings offer an age rating and content descriptor for each game. Additionally, the new PEGI app enables parents to read the examiners report that let to a specific rating. This detailed information is hugely helpful in making an informed decision. You can also use the app to search for age-appropriate alternatives by selecting a younger PEGI rating.

All consoles enable you to set-up automatic age limits that require the child to ask permission and enter a password before purchasing, installing or launching a game of a specific age rating.

Finally, the report highlights that children sometimes need help to realise how long they have played for and stop when they’ve had enough. Again, it’s important that parents use the excellent existing tools to guide screen-time in a healthy direction.

Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo consoles each enable you to set a daily limit of gaming time. When the time is running out the child needs to ask for more and enter a password. Along with this, you can get weekly reports from Xbox and Nintendo systems that outline which games your child has spent time playing.

Understanding what your child is doing when playing games is another important measure of healthy behaviour. This not only enables you to ensure they stop when they’ve had enough, but also to encourage a wide range of gaming activities rather than always playing the same game. It also means you can understand when they have worked towards a difficult goal or skill in a game, and then praise their success.

Taken together, the tools than control spending and screen-time limits along with the PEGI age ratings, really put parents and carers in the driving seat.

Avatar for Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.