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Video games

The Video Standards Council (VSC) administers PEGI, a pan-European age rating system designed for video games.

It’s responsible for applying the PEGI system to video games sold in the UK.

In this section you’ll find some tips on how you can ensure your child safely enjoys playing their video games.

Ofcom research shows that more online gamers are now playing against someone elsewhere who they don't know personally - this type of gaming is undertaken by one in five 8-11s and four in ten 12-15s.

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Playing games safely

If you are unsure whether a game is suitable for your child you can also find many reviews online. The website Ask About Games is particularly helpful in providing parental information on games.

Try to engage with your child when they play video games. You’ll soon learn their likes and dislikes and, of course, see for yourself what they’re playing. If you discover that they’re playing an age inappropriate game, explain and discuss why the game isn’t suitable for them.

Ensure that your child takes regular breaks and that they do not play games for extended periods. Ideally they should take 5 minute breaks every 45 minutes to an hour.

Try to make sure that video games are played in a brightly lit room and preferably where you can keep an eye on what is happening.

The UK Safer Internet Centre's Parents’ Guide to Technology provides FAQs about gaming devices, instructions for setting up controls and a handy shopper’s checklist of important questions to ask when buying a gaming device for your child.

Age ratings

Always look for the age classification on the game packaging.There are five PEGI age rating categories: 3, 7, 12, 16 & 18. It is illegal to sell a 12, 16 or 18 game to someone below the specified age. This also applies to online retailers selling physical product (discs or cards).

PEGI games will usually carry a pictorial descriptor to inform consumers of the dominant rating issue in the game (violence, bad language, substance abuse and so on).

The Games Rating Authority also produces Additional Consumer Information (ACI) for each game. This is a brief summary of the game detailing what the ratings issues are in terms of their frequency and strength.

Online games

Be aware that online games sometimes enable the download of extra software that can alter the game content and may even alter the age classification of the game as a result.

Online games are usually played in virtual communities requiring players to interact with complete strangers. You should decide whether to permit your child to play online games. If you do, then ensure that your child doesn’t give out personal details. Abusive or bullying behaviour should be reported to the online game moderator.

Parental controls

Make use of the parental control facility on PCs and consoles to ensure that inappropriate content is filtered out. You can download a guide for setting parental controls on PCs and consoles from the VSC.

Want to find out more?

You can read more about the VSC on ParentPort’s Find Out More page.

The VSC also has a number of other useful guides and documents.