Video Games: What Parents Need To Know

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. It’s likely that parent’s receiving their child’s Christmas list will notice that there is no doubt a request for a video game. It’s also likely that it won’t be age appropriate. With stories in the media of children being violent and the age old debate of children being inspired to do violent and aggressive acts as a result of playing video games, I am not sure how this debate has gotten out of hand. The one thing most people have overlooked is how do children under the age of 18 get their hands on a game that is designed for adults? Think about that. How do children get access to violent video games in the first place? Maybe, parent’s need some information on what to look for when buying their children video games this Christmas. So what do all the labels mean?


Age Ratings




The above images are from Pan European Game Information (PEGI). What this means is that games have been rated based on their in-game content. As you can see there are a wide range of games which are suitable for a number of gaming audiences. Further more, as an additional helper for parents PEGI have kindly colour-coded these ratings to give a further indication of their appropriateness.

Ages 3 and 7

Any game that is in this bracket will be safe for anyone over the age of 3 and 7 respectfully. That’s easy to understand isn’t it? Notice how the label is green. We have been conditioned to identify the colour green as a safe colour so this should be a further indication of the appropriateness of the game.

Ages 12 and 16

Notice that the colour on this label is Orange, this would suggest caution. The fact that it is orange suggests the game is appropriate but still has mature offerings. At this point on the scale, you can expect that games in this bracket will have moderate violence, perhaps some slight swearing or even scenes of smoking or some romantic scenes.  By the phrase moderate violence, I mean that it will be somewhat cartoon-ish and there will be no blood. Themes will be a bit more mature but again all this will be appropriate for the age of the child. It really is that simple.

Ages 18+

Now this one couldn’t be more simpler, and I’m sure you are noticing a pattern.  Notice the blood red colour. Nothing suggests danger or warning like the colour red. As a parent, this must surely attract your attention? If a game is rated as 18+ this will generally mean that the game is violent, bloody, has strong language, nudity, and mature themes throughout. This symbol, in no way, suggests appropriateness for children.

At this point, there is no further information regarding the age appropriateness of a game that PEGI can provide. The responsibility is therefore passed on to you. You, the parent, make the decision of whether you expose your child to a particular video game. You wouldn’t let your 10 year old child watch a film rated 18, so why let them play an 18 rated game? So when you’re in the shop look at the symbol and ask yourself, “How old is my child and how old is the recommended player age of this game?”

I’ll help you out the answer is simple. If the age on the box is older than your child, DO NOT PURCHASE!


What do the symbols mean, Tom?


Again, PEGI have made this as simple as possible. These symbols represent themes in the game. So if you pick up a game for your child, look at the back of the game box and you will no doubt see some of these icons. Of course, the younger the game age rating , the less of these symbols you are likely to encounter. These symbols can be really confusing to understand as a parent so I’ll break them down for you.




This one means bad language. So you can expect some pretty heinous language in the game that you probably wouldn’t want Junior repeating at home, school or church.





Believe it or not, this means this one means violence. This logo means that if your child plays this game they are going to either witness or inflict violent acts on characters in the game. If you don’t want the hassle and embarrassment of your child going to school with a gun and attempting to kill everybody, don’t buy the game.




This one means there will be scenes where your child will be exposed to witnessing characters in the game experimenting, dealing with , or fighting over drugs. If that doesn’t sit well with you, don’t buy the game.




If a game has this logo on the back, it means that your child can play online with others. Now, it’s really important to make sure you know who your children are playing games with online. Personally, if your child is under 16, I wouldn’t even be letting them play online as it’s often a pretty hostile environment. There are settings on both X-box 360, X-box One, PS3 and PS4 which will allow you to manage how your child plays on the console. (Xbox One Guide PS4 Guide)

I would strongly urge you to take the time to familiarise yourself with the console and change the settings to make video game play safe for your child. In a nut shell, there is no harm with this logo but it has potential to be a threat, so as a parent make sure it’s safe. It’s not the video game manufactures or developers fault who your child plays online with.




This icon means that there will be some discriminatory themes within the game. Whether this is religious, racial, gender or political discrimination, again, it’s up to you whether you expose your child to this theme.




Spiders are scary to most people. So it can only be deduced that this icon with the spider on means scary or fear. Look, it’s taken you years to get little Jimmy to sleep in his own bed, don’t throw away all that hard work and ruin it by letting them play a game which will scare the life out of them. Avoid any game with this logo on for your child!




Seriously, do I need to explain this one?



Finally, this symbol means sex. So, if you purchase a game with this on the back, this means that, yep you got it, there will be sexual scenes within the game. Your child might see a boob, might even see 100 boobs, or even people having sex. Either way, I wouldn’t want my 10 year kid playing a game with this on the back.


There is only so much that video games manufacturers can do. They provide all the information you need to know. The responsibility of whether you choose to make an informed decision of it’s suitability is down to you, the parent. If you let your 10 or 14 year old child play a game rated at 18 or over and something bad happens. How can it be the games fault, it told you it wouldn’t be suitable. Make an informed decision, the information is there. Respect it.


Don’t ruin it for the rest of us!


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