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Supporting healthy gaming habits for children

- Safe and healthy game playing for children.

Things you can try

  1. Learn the facts and set parental controls

    Understanding gaming and supporting your child or young person is an important part of parenting.

    • Use parental controls.

    Parentzone.org provides advice about parental control, what they help with and how to use them.

    You can ask the Designated Safeguarding Lead in your school if you need help.

    • There are no UK guidelines on screen time.

    In the USA, the recommendation is zero screen time if your child is under 18-months, and up to one hour a day for under-fives. This is to make sure that young children can develop normally - socially, emotionally and physically. Consider appropriate time-limits according to the age of your child. More than a few hours a day is probably not good for anyone.

    • Check the content and age-rating.

    Complex and multiplayer games are for older children and young people and all games that are rated 18 are unsuitable for children. Some games are too violent for them and may show sex and brutality, which is harmful to their emotional development. Many children are playing games over their age limit and lots of 7-10 years old describe themselves as ‘addicted’ to games they are not considered old enough to play

    Want to look up content and age rating for games? Ask About Games, have created a way to search and find out more about the game your child is playing.

    • Decide what forms of combat you are happy for them to experience.

    Games that are cartoonish are safer than games that show ‘realistic’ military combat. Being exposed to dramatised violence on screen can distance children from reality and even result in trauma.

  2. Play together

    Make an effort to take an interest in the games your child wants to play so that you understand what these games are and why your child wants to play them.

    Sit with your child and enjoy gaming together. When you show an interest in the things they enjoy, they are more likely to feel understood and valued, and be willing to follow your rules.

    Be a good role model of how to enjoy gaming and give yourself limits. This will teach them that it’s important to think about what games to play and for how long.

  3. Watch out for risks

    Bullying can happen online too. Show your child the blocking and reporting functions in a game so they can prevent bullies from contacting them.

    Teach your child how to speak to friends in multiplayer games and to avoid contact with strangers who may take advantage of them.

    Have the game console in a busy part of your home. This can prevent young children getting too absorbed in the digital world or into conversations with unsuitable strangers.

    Some games cost money to download or ask players to buy credits or items so they can keep playing. Many free games need payment to continue to play once the game has started. Make sure controls are in place and set spending limits you are comfortable with. Ensure your child can’t buy anything without your consent.

  4. Encourage a healthy balance

    You may feel as though they are ‘addicted’ to games and they can’t stop them.

    Keep in mind all the things your child enjoys, such as team sport, and encourage those too.

    Keep gaming in balance with other activities. Make sure that your children spend time outdoors and enjoy other things like reading, music or crafts.

  5. Agree boundaries

    Before setting rules, have a conversation with your child about the games they play. Then you can begin to understand why they enjoy the games. Think together about how gaming fits in with the rest of their life.

    I was really worried about my daughter being more absorbed in her gaming than real life. I started to worry about its potential impact on her homework and bedtime routine. And I worried about her communication with friends at school. I decided I needed to understand what she was getting from gaming. Then we could sit down and set some healthy rules together.

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