Age Ratings & Parental Controls
- 1 Get Smart about P.L.A.Y.
- 2 PEGI
- 3 Parental Control Tools
- 4 Guidance on Parental Controls
- 5 International Age Ratings
- 6 International Resources
- 7 Further Guidence on Parental Controls
Get Smart about P.L.A.Y.
In January 2020, the UK games industry launched the Get Smart About P.L.A.Y. campaign to encourage the uptake of parental controls to help parents and carers manage game time in their homes.
The campaign promotes a message to parents and carers to foster fun, communicative and understanding relationships with their children about how best to enjoy video games in a safe and sensible way, following four core principles:
- P - Play games with your children
- L' - Learn about family controls at www.askaboutgames.com
- A - Ask your children why they play
- Y - You're in charge of setting the rules
Full details of the campaign and guidance about parental controls for games devices can be found at AskAboutGames.com.
The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established in 2003 to help improve understanding in European countries about age appropriate content in video games.
Initially developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), the PEGI age rating system has been adopted by 35 European countries, including the UK and is supported by all major console manufacturers and publishers in Europe.
PEGI Age Labels
PEGI categorises games into 5 age classifications, each allowing different levels of age-appropriate content:
PEGI Content Descriptors
To make the nature of content that may not be age-appropriate clearer to consumers, PEGI also uses ‘content descriptors’. These appear as symbols on the boxes of games, describing content such as violence and bad language in games:
|PEGI Content Descriptor Name||PEGI Content Descriptor Label||Description|
|In-Game Purchases||The game includes an option to spend real money on in-game items or additional content.|
Parental Control Tools
All games consoles, smartphones and PC and Mac operating systems have options for parental controls, enabling parents to protect their children’s safety and privacy when gaming both online and offline. These parental controls can be used to:
- Select which games children are allowed to play
- Control and monitor the use of digital purchases
- Limit internet browsing
- Control the level of online interaction
Details of parental control tools on specific consoles and platforms are listed below:
Microsoft advises parents to create ‘family accounts’ on Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles. An Xbox family account is free to create and allows parents to prevent unauthorised purchases, set content age limits and set screen time limits.
For the Nintendo Switch, a parental controls app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play. This can be used to restrict the types of games children are able to play on the Switch console and set screen time limits.
Parental controls can be set up in the settings of the PlayStation 4. Settings can be adjusted to set monthly spending limits, restrict access to network features, disable use of the web browser and prevent children from playing non-age-appropriate games. The PlayStation website also has a guide on how to prevent children from changing parental controls.
Phone and Tablet
The Google Play store (for Android devices) allows parents to set parental controls on apps, games, music, films, tv and books. Unlike console games, mobile games are not given age ratings by PEGI and instead are rated by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). Limits can be placed on children’s Google Play accounts to restrict access to certain games based on IARC age ratings. Parents can also block and unblock their children from using individual apps.
iPhone and iPad
In the settings for iOS devices, content and privacy restrictions can be set up, purchases can be prevented, explicit content in apps and games can be restricted and limits on screen time can be set. A passcode can be created on iPhones and iPads to prevent children from disabling these parental controls.
PC and Mac
Steam has a mode called ‘Family View’ for parents and families to establish their own rules for which features in Steam should be accessible. With Family View, the Steam Store, Library, Community, Friends and other features can be locked, with access to these features only unlockable with entry of a secret PIN.
Epic Games Store
In the ‘account settings’ section of the Epic Games Store, a parental controls PIN can be set up to lock mature game content based on age ratings.
Just like all console games, PEGI gives VR games age ratings based on their content. However, given how new VR is as a technology, a lack of research into the effects of Virtual Reality on children means VR headsets are currently not recommended for children under 12.
Guidance on Parental Controls
Ask About Games recommends that parents make use of the inbuilt controls on consoles and handheld devices to keep track of the games their families are playing and how long they are playing them for.
International Age Ratings
The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) is an initiative introduced in 2013, aiming to streamline the age classification process for digital games and mobile apps. The IARC uses questionnaires to assess the content of games and apps, with ratings generated based on national standards of the countries they apply to. IARC members include some of the largest the largest games content ratings board such as PEGI and ESRB.
IARC Participants & Regions
- Austrailian Classification Board
- South Korea
- Europe (excluding Germany)
- Portugal (using a moderated version of PEGI)
- South Africa
- Belgium - Jouez malin
- France - PédaGoJeux
- The Netherlands - Rule The Game
- Poland - Zapyta O Gry
- Spain - The Good Gamer
- Sweden - Fråga, Prata, Spela