What are video game age restrictions?

Video games are not only fun and entertaining. They can be educational, and encourage children’s creativity and imagination. They’re also a social experience families can enjoy together.

There is a huge choice of video games for your child to play. This variety means you can find lots of safe and interesting games to play. But it is also important to know that the games are right for your child.

Games have age restrictions and include symbols to show what they include. These are helpful when deciding if a game is suitable for your child. You can also use age restrictions to set limits on what is available for your child to play.

age restrictions: two people playing a video game. Only their hands are visible, holding onto consoles. There is a TV with a football pitch on in the background.

What are age restrictions?

  • Video game age restrictions work like those used for films.
  • The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system decides the age restrictions.
  • PEGI uses five age categories and eight content categories.
  • The age categories are: 3, 7, 12, 16, 18. The number is the youngest age at which a child should play the game. There is also a ‘Parental Guidance Recommended’ category for some apps.
  • The age restriction refers to the content of the game, not the difficulty level. A game rated 3 might be too difficult for a three-year-old but the content would be appropriate. Similarly, a game rated 18 might be easy to play but include mature content.

What do the symbols mean?

  • The symbols on a game show you what content is included.
  • They work like the text on a film or TV show that says it contains violence or swearing.
  • Violence: this means the game contains some form of violence. There won’t be any violence if the game has an age restriction of 3. If the age restriction is 7, the violence will be non-realistic or non-detailed. Games rated 12 can include violence in a fantasy environment or non-realistic violence. The 16 and 18 age restrictions can have more realistic-looking violence.
  • Bad language: for games rated 3 or 7, there won’t be any swearing. There can be mild swearing for games with an age restriction of 12. There can be more expletive swearing in the 16 and 18 age restrictions.
  • Fear: this symbol might be on games rated 7 if it might show some pictures or sounds that could upset young children. It might be on games rated 12 if there are horror effects or sounds but no violence.
  • Gambling: these games might teach or encourage gambling. Gambling is only allowed in games with the 12, 16 or 18 age restrictions.
  • Sex: this symbol can be on games rated 12 or above. The higher the age restriction, the more explicit the game can be.
  • Drugs: this means the game refers to or depicts the use of illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco. This is only allowed in games with age restrictions of 16 and 18.
  • Discrimination: this symbol can only apply to games rated 18. It means the game contains stereotypes of religious, ethnic, or national groups. These could encourage hatred.

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