Wise up when you play online games. Follow these tips
Has your child turned the family PC into a gaming computer, play on your smartphone or dream of the latest console? Apart from talking about it, a number of tools can help you to prevent your child from spending too much time and money online or gaming recklessly. Belgian Games, the representative of the video games sector in Belgium, regularly puts these tools in the spotlight. This month it did so in the context of Safer Internet Day.
To promote healthy and responsible gaming, David Verbruggen of Belgian Games gives advice to (grand)parents, teachers and supervisors.
1. Check the rating
Before your child buys or plays a video game, you should check the rating information on the online shop or on the back of the box. "The widely used PEGI rating can help you to see if the game is suitable for your child's age, but also if it contains online features that deserve your attention, such as multiplayer or integrated purchases," says David Verbruggen. This information is also included in the PEGI Ratings app, which is free for iOS and Android.
2. Activate parental controls
Console, computer, smartphone or tablet: all these systems offer a certain level of parental control. This is a useful tool for keeping an eye on your child's overall activity and preventing any excesses without spying on your child. You can, for example:
- Limit the playing time
It's not always easy to stop a game, especially if it's online with other players. "The best thing is to talk to your child and to set clear rules," says David Verbruggen. "Parental control tools can make it easier to put them into practice." Depending on the available options, you can set the duration of the game, as well as consult an activity log, receive alerts, etc.
- Avoid explicit content and protect your child's privacy
Parental controls can also help to protect children when they play online or access the internet on their device. For certain video games, you can limit access based on your child's age or PEGI labels. Depending on the platform, you can disable (voice) chat, determine who your child can play with online, block certain sites or search terms, or restrict the posting of screenshots and videos on social media. "Don't give out sensitive information to strangers online. You don't do that in real life either," advises David Verbruggen.
- Avoid high bills
More and more video games allow paid content to be downloaded. To avoid running up a high bill, check the information on the online shop or PEGI labels and set up parental controls on the relevant platform to limit or block spending. "Some games, including the well-known Fortnite, have an option to report unintended purchases and to request a refund under certain conditions," adds David Verbruggen.
3. Block and report unwanted behaviour
Not all players you come across in online games have the best intentions and discriminate, bully, cheat, etc. Depending on the video game and online platform, you can protect your child by blocking or reporting such users. "If a player makes abusive or unwanted comments, you can block them from all online communication with them," explains David Verbruggen. "If their behaviour is clearly wrong, you can report players. Players who are repeatedly reported may receive a warning or be suspended."
The Speelhetslim website contains a guide with good practices for videogames, information about the PEGI system, links to instructions about how you set parental controls for the game platform you use, and information on how you can report unwanted behaviour.