Many children like to play online games and, this last year especially, more and more young people have been spending a lot of time on tablets, phones and other devices.
Games are a way for children to relax, be creative and compete against friends. However, not all online games are suitable for under 18-year-olds.
Some games’ graphics and gameplay might feel like they are aimed at children, but on closer inspection it becomes apparent they are not at all suitable, so it’s important to explore the games your children are playing.
Games can have adult themes throughout
For example, Cunch-line is a racing game, and at first it may seem similar to Mario Kart.
However, ‘cunch’ is a slang word used for ‘county lines’, which is the term used to describe transporting drugs from urban areas to more remote locations.
This results in adult themes throughout the game that aren’t suitable for children, including references to drugs and criminal activity.
Project Makeover is a puzzle game where the player is set different tasks to makeover a client’s physical appearance.
The game promotes specific beauty ideals and the message that there is a correlation between what you look like and being happy.
While research is still ongoing about the effect apps like this can have on young people, it could cause them to have self-esteem issues and imply that they need to conform to certain beauty standards in order to be accepted.
And for this reason, even though Project Makeover’s official age rating is 4+, we don’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 13.
Important for parents to look at games first
It is important for you, as a parent or carer, to download and explore games before you let your child play them, so you can see if there’s any adult themes you don’t want them to see.
You may also want to speak to other parents about the games their children are playing, to find out if they have any concerns.
Our Net Aware site has reviews on many of the popular games and apps, and you can also find advice on age and content ratings.
Have discussions about games being used
Many official ratings only cover the actual content of the game and not whether it poses other risks to children, such as a stranger being able to communicate with them, so it’s important to look at the game before you let your child play it.
It’s always a good idea to have regular conversations with your child about the different games they’re playing, and let them know that you’re always there if anything they come across upsets or worries them.
For more information on keeping your child safe online, visit Net Aware. If a child or young person sees something that upsets them online, Childline is here, free and confidentially, on 0800 1111 or go to the Childline website.