Games can be entertaining, educational and bring the whole family together. But it is important your kids know how to stay safe.
- Talk: having the conversation
You might find yourself under pressure to let your child play games they're not old enough for. Research the game they want to play and if you feel it's inappropriate, explain why. Shop together to find a game you're happy for them to play alone, or that the whole family might enjoy.
Sites like Ask About Games share stories from families on which games worked best for them.
Make sure you talk about online interactions too. Many games give you the chance to play with or against other gamers online. Talk about what behaviour is appropriate and what information to share.
- Explore: choosing appropriate games
There's many different ways to play. You can use a phone, tablet, computer or games console. You can play on your own, as a group or with others online.
Most smartphone or tablet games are free to download, but encourage you to pay to unlock extras. These payments are called in-app purchases. Make sure you set a password for in-app purchases to control spending.
With consoles, you can download games using the console or buy game disks in shops.
Just like films, games have trailers and age ratings. The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating appears on the front of disk boxes with an age and a colour:
- green means the game is suitable for kids aged three and over or seven and over
- orange means the game is suitable for kids aged 12 and over or 16 and over
- red means the game is suitable for over 18s.
There are online videos that explain PEGI Ratings in more detail. You can see why a game has a certain rating on the back of the box. To find out more, check the PEGI or Games Rating Authority (GRA) website.
For more advice on what games to choose, speak to other parents or look at online reviews. Most high street gaming shops have trained staff to give advice on age appropriate games.
- Agree: setting the ground rules
Having consoles in a family space will help you keep an eye on what your kids play. Agree how long they can play each day and who with. If they're downloading games, set some rules on what they can and can't download.
Taking breaks is really important. An adult gamer should take a break every 45 minutes. Adjust breaks depending on how old your kids are, and think about making it part of your house rules for everyone.
- Manage: taking control
Set up parental controls to choose which games can be watched or played without a password.
You can also restrict the interactions your kids have with other online players, like whether they can share voice or pictures. On some consoles, you can choose how long it can be played each day before automatically pausing.
Most consoles will also keep track of which games have been played and when. On the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS consoles, you can use the Activity Log to see what your kids have been up to.
If you have more questions about gaming, or you need more help, you can call our helpline on 0808 800 5002.
The children pictured are models. Photography by Tom Hull.