As the build up to Christmas creeps up on everyone, you may be aware of an increase in talk about what console and/or PC games your child may want as a gift this year. Our blog this week looks at the age ratings on games and offers advice on keeping your child safe if they spend time gaming.

Age ratings are present to ensure that the entertainment content is suitable for the age of the person who will be using the product. The age rating is the minimum age that the content is suitable for. Age rating are meant to offer guidance to those purchasing, for example a game.

Since 2012, PEGI has been the sole system used in Europe for new console and PC games. Thousands of games have been PEGI rated since the scheme was introduced in early 2003. It is important to note that in Europe, PEGI 12, 16 and 18 ratings are legally enforceable, meaning that they cannot be supplied to persons below those respective age bars. However, this only applies to the retailer. It doesn’t stop an adult from buying such games for a child. Such rated games may seem harmless on the surface, “it’s only a game”, but don’t be fooled by first impressions. Many games may appear benign, but they can feature isolated moments of strong, gory violence, horror, illegal drug use and even sexual violence on occasion.

Essentially, the PEGI rating on a game confirms that it contains content suitable for a certain age group and above.  For example, an 8 age rated game is suitable for everyone who is 8 years or older, while an 18 rated game is deemed suitable for adults only, because it’s quite possible that there may be content within the game which could potentially be harmful, frightening or worrying to developing children. Next to the age rating there are also pictograms to explain why the rating was awarded. When buying a game for anyone under the age of 18, always look at the age rating to check it is suitable for the intended end-user. Adult games contain adult only content, so you should treat them just like any other 18 rated medium like a film.

It’s really important to keep a watchful eye on the age ratings of the games that your child is playing. This can be a contentious issue in some houses as peer pressure can play a part in kids wanting to play a game that their friends are playing. Talk to your child about the importance of having a balance when it comes to gaming and set limits on the amount of time that they spend in front of a screen. It’s always a good idea to do your own research on a game that your child has mentioned to you. If you feel the content is not age appropriate, then talk with your child about your concerns. Having an open communication style will certainly be an advantage when it comes to discussing gaming and setting boundaries around it in your home.

As we always say when it comes to safety settings on digital devices, they are a great first step, but they are not a substitute for communicating with your child about the importance of staying safe online. The very same thing can be said about age ratings on games. While an age rating is a guide it is no substitute for the input and view of an adult into the content their child is being exposed to via gaming.