Online Gaming

Games can be played online through a computer, smart phone and games consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Xbox and Playstation. The consoles are basically computers designed specifically for game playing and they can be used on their own, but once connected to the internet each has its own website and extended community with millions of players. With all online activity there are dangers and adult supervision should be provided if your child is game playing online.

Video games are rated by PEGI (Pan European Game Information) and follow an easy to understand ‘traffic light’ system. Games rated 3 and 7 (green), 12 and 16 (amber) and 18 (red). The 12, 16 and 18 ratings are legally enforceable as the minimum age you need to be to buy the game.

PEGI sets standards for the age rating of interactive games, both online and offline. It gives clear advice on content to provide certainty for parents – and the strongest possible protection for children:

PEGI3 The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard.
PEGI7 Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.
PEGI12 Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non-graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.
PEGI16 This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16.
PEGI18 This adult rating is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. In general terms it is where the level of violence is so visually strong that it would make the reasonable viewer react with a sense of revulsion. This rating is also applied where the level of sexual activity is explicit which may mean that genitals are visible. Any game that glamorises the use of real life drugs will also probably fall into this category.

The PEGI ratings are found on the front, back and spine of the game case. It should also be noted that the ratings relate to the content of the game and not to how difficult the game is to play. A chess game would probably have a 3 rating but would hardly be recommended for toddlers.

Game Descriptors

As an additional aid to purchasers (particularly parents and carers) video games rated under the PEGI system will usually display one or more descriptors to give an indication as to the reasons why a game has been age rated at a particular age level. There are 10 possible descriptors.

GDdrugs The video game may refer to or depict the use of drugs. GDfear The video game may be frightening or scary for young children.
 GDdisc The video game may contain depictions of or material which may encourage discrimination.  GDlang The video game will contain bad language. At a 12 rating this will be mild swearing but at a 16 rating and above it will include sexual expletives.
 GDgamb The video game may encourage or teach gambling.  GDviol The video game will contain depictions of violence
 GDnude The video game may show nudity in a sexual setting  GDhorror The video game may contain horrific sounds or horror effects which may be shocking or cause revulsion to the viewer
 GDsex The video game may show sexual behaviour or sexual references  GDonline The video game can be played online possibly with or against other people

Allowing your child to use an age inappropriate game can increase children’s aggression and elements of games regularly enter their play, particularly with peers in the playground.

Parental Responsibility

  • The PEGI ratings system helps you make informed decisions about which video games to choose for your family
  • A PEGI rating gives the suggested minimum age that you must be to play a game due to the suitability of the content
  • As parents you can take direct control of what games your children play at home, how they play them and for how long through parental controls on video game systems such as the Xbox or PlayStation
  • Choosing and playing video games as a family is the best way to understand and enjoy them together
  • The stories, worlds and characters in video games offer playful ways to engage with a wide range of subjects and fuels creativity, interests and imagination
  • The askaboutgames.com website provides further information about video games ratings and offers real family stories and suggestions on how video games can be a creative and collaborative experience for all the family
  • We also recommend that all parents visit the CEOP Think U Know website for more information on keeping your child safe online
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