Are video games and apps safe for my child?  

Games and apps can be a positive part of family life. Communication tools such as WhatsApp and Instagram can help your child stay in touch with friends and family. Some games can help develop self-understanding, allowing your child to work with other players and practise empathy for the characters.   

But it’s also helpful to know the risks, and what you can do to help your child engage in a way that’s safe.  

Risks of violent or inappropriate content

You may not feel comfortable with all the games and apps that appeal to your child. Popular games that some parents have concerns about include: 

  • Kick the Buddy (12+). Players use weapons on a puppet-like figure until the cartoon faints, explodes or dies. The Buddy flops around, shouting in pain and begging the player to stop. It also allows players to put a photo of a friend or family member onto the Buddy’s body.  
  • Fortnite (12+). Includes 100 live players who must fight each other to survive and be the last one standing. The game includes heavy violence to win but doesn’t show a lot of blood or gore.  
  • Grand Theft Auto (18+). The game contains adult themes, including violence, sex and drug use. Players score points through doing illegal and violent acts.  
  • Social media such as Tiktok, Snapchat and Youtube can also share violent or inappropriate content, depending on what your child is viewing.  

Risk of contact with others

Many games and apps have chat or messaging functions. Try to be aware of who your child is communicating with online, and who might be able to see their profiles and posts.  

Online gaming and streaming platforms such as Discord, Twitch and Xbox Live can have risks if your child is playing with people they don’t know in real life.    

Apps where your child may be contacted by others include: 

  • Tiktok (13+). Sets all profiles to public by default. This means that anyone can view your children’s videos and make contact with them via messages.  
  • Snapchat (13+). Children like snapchat for the fun filters. But because the images and messages are temporary it can be harder to monitor what your child is being exposed to.  This can lead to people feeling more confident to share unkind or sexual content as they feel the risk is lower.  
  • YouTube (13+). Your child can view different types of content from lots of different sources. People can also talk to your child in the comments or via direct messaging.  

Risk of real-world spending

Many games and apps include purchases. These can be upgrades, ad blockers or extra in-game currency that improves game play. It’s important to be aware of these and talk to your child about the fact that these in-game or in-app purchases cost real money.     

  • Tiktok (13+). Offers in-app purchases ranging from 99p to £99.99. The money buys digital coins. Users can then send these to their favourite Tiktok creators.  
  • Minecraft (7+), Roblox (7+), Fortnite (12+) and Pokemon Go (13+). All offer in-app purchases. These range across the games from 99p to £199.99 and buy virtual money which they can then spend on in-game equipment.  
  • FIFA (13+). Offers digital packs of football players for between 79p to £79.99. But you can’t always see which players are in the pack until after you have paid. This means some children buy multiple packs to try to get their favourite players.  

Keeping your child safe

Make sure that your child is playing age-appropriate games and apps. It can help to understand the different age restrictions and content warningsThese allow you to see what’s appropriate for your child. 

Common Sense Media offers independent reviews on games and apps. Note that you can read up to three reviews before you have to pay.

See advice on different apps at Internet Matters. The Family Gaming Database can help you identify games you think would benefit your child.

We have some advice on keeping your child safe when using apps or playing games.

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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