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Games Consoles

​Looking for advice on how to support your child in using a games console safely and responsibly? Read our guide and FAQs below.

 

Games consoles - Top 3 tips to take away:

  1. Talk with your child about responsible use of their games console – what is okay and not okay to use it for? What are the risks? Tell your child what they should do if something goes wrong while using it. This could be to turn the screen off and tell an adult.
  2. Explore parental controls, both on the games console and for your home WiFi. Talk these through with your child too. Parental controls are a helpful tool, but an open conversation with your child is the most important thing.
  3. Think about the location of the games console. Will it be in a shared family space or in a bedroom? Think about: setting time limits; reminding your child about the risks of communicating online with people that they do not know; and encouraging them to come to you with any worries.

How to start a conversation with your child about using a games console safely:

  • Why do you want to get a games console? / What do you like about your games console?
  • What is your favourite game? / What game do you really want to play?
  • How do young people your age use their games console?
  • What can we do as a family to help you use the games console safely?
  • How can we as a family help you to manage the time you spend gaming?
  • What would you do if something worrying or upsetting happened on your games console?
  • (If there is a problem) Can you explain to me how it happened so we can fix it together?

FAQs

What is a games console?

A games console is a computer device used to play virtual, or ‘video’ games, on a screen. Some connect to a television; others are handheld with the screens built into them. Games are either inserted into the device as a disc or card or downloaded directly onto the device via the internet and the device’s online store.

What can you use a games console for?

Games consoles are mainly used to play video games, either by yourself or with others. Playing with Multiple people can play in person using several controllers plugged into the same console, or from different locations by using an internet connection.

Games consoles can also be used to browse the internet, stream videos and music, store and access photos and files, and more. Gaming also has a social element and provides a virtual space where young people can spend time chatting with friends.

At what age should I let my child have a games console?

There is no official or recommended age for a child to have/use a games console.

However, like films, video games are given age ratings. They can be rated as  suitable for 3, 7, 12, 16 or 18 years old. Read more about age ratings on the PEGI website.

Online gaming is becoming more popular; 59% of 5-15s now play games online, increasing from 53% since 2018 and 45% five years ago. (Ofcom 2019)

As with any piece of technology, use your judgement to decide if you are happy for your child to use it.

How can I introduce a games console in safe way?

Use the games console with your child as a fun way to familiarise yourself with the device, how it works and how they like to use it. This can be a great way to model responsible and positive use of technology and show your child you are interested in how they use it.

Explore the parental controls on offer and set up boundaries with your child around how you expect them to use the console. A family agreement can help you to set out your expectations with your child whether you are getting a new device or have been using one for a while. Make sure you give them the confidence to talk to you if anything worries or upset them while using it.

For more information on the games consoles available and a list of things to consider before making this purchase, visit Internet Matters’ guide on games consoles for children.

What risks should I be aware of?

Like any piece of technology, games consoles have both benefits and risks. Many of the risks depend on how a games console is being used and the apps that are installed. For example, if it is being used for chatting as well as gaming, this could introduce a risk of communication with strangers.

  • Cyberbullying and harassment from both friends and strangers
  • Unwanted contact from others and strangers
  • Over-sharing personal information, such as your name, location or images
  • Accessing inappropriate content
  • Spending too much money
  • Excessive screen time
  • Behaving inappropriately or unkindly online

What can I do to manage the risks?

Explore parental controls and privacy options. These offer settings such as age limits for downloading new games, time limits and disabling private chat. For more information on parental controls, check the console’s specific website, the Ofcom website, or the Internet Matters guides on gaming consoles. For guidance on the age suitability of a game, search the title on Common Sense Media.

Explain to your child the importance of not giving away personal information, images, or their location to people they do not know online, and to tell you about anyone who pressures them for these in a game.

Keep talking with your child about how they are using the console and take an interest in their gaming. Open conversation lets your child know you are someone they can go with any questions or worries.

Visit Childnet’s key topics for specific advice for different risks.

What about inheriting or buying a second hand games console?

Ensure that any second hand games console has been restored to its factory settings before your child uses it. This means deleting all data on the console and returning it to the state it would have been in if purchased brand new. This will avoid the possibility of accessing someone else’s personal information, private messages, photos, accounts, etc. It will also allow you to set up parental controls that are most suitable for your child. Find out how to restore a specific games console to its factory settings here for PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and Nintendo Switch.

What can I do if something goes wrong?

Reassure your child they have done the right thing by telling you and that you are there to listen and help. Try to remain calm and non-judgemental, to help your child feel comfortable in telling you how the issue happened.

Work with your child to report or block any unacceptable behaviour or other users. Contact your child’s school for further support, particularly if it involves cyberbullying between classmates or inappropriate contact from an adult. If you suspect that your child is or has been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact by another person (grooming), report this to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre at www.ceop.police.uk.

If your child has accessed inappropriate content, you can report this to the site or service it appeared on. Find out how to do this on the Childnet website.

Explore the settings to see if you can limit the risk of it happening again.

For help on specific problems, see the following hot topics on gaming, screen time, cyberbullying, online grooming and digital wellbeing.