Gaming - what's appropriate for your child?

Gaming - what's appropriate for your child?

The Video Standards Council Rating Board is the national video games regulator. They have been rating video games for 14 years using the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating system on an advisory basis, but in 2012 they were formally designated as the legal authority for rating video games in the UK.

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What is PEGI?

The PEGI system is designed to inform the public of what’s suitable and what’s not for different ages. 

PEGI’s professional analysts look at hundreds of video games every year and determine what is suitable for different age groups using a set of criteria.
The criteria has been established by experts in the field of child protection, psychology, the law and media. It helps analysts to decide what game content is appropriate in each of five rating groups.
All games released in the UK will have one of the following PEGI age ratings on the packaging: 3, 7, 12, 16 or 18. The rating means that the game shouldn't be played by a young person under that age. Why? 

Because there may be content within the game which could potentially be harmful, frightening or worrying to developing children. Next to the age rating there are also pictograms to explain why the rating was awarded.

Is PEGI legally enforceable?

In the UK, the PEGI 12, 16 and 18 ratings are legally enforceable.

This means that retailers cannot sell or hire these games to those below these age bars. But this only applies to the retailer. It doesn’t stop an adult from buying the games for a child.

Games with these ratings may seem harmless on the surface but don’t be fooled by first impressions.  Many games may appear benign, but they can feature moments of strong violence, horror, illegal drug use and even sexual violence.

For extra age rating information about a game, use the Additional Consumer Information (ACI)Use the ‘search’ function to find a game and you'll get a breakdown of the content, including:

  • How much graphic content appears in the game;
  • How often/where it appears and how strong it is. 
This is a great tool for confirming you are making the right choice in the games your child may be playing.
You may come across a game which doesn’t carry a PEGI rating but may feature a rating from non-European countries. These ratings carry no weight in the UK or Europe and should not be taken at face value as their criteria may not be in line with UK guidance.

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Gaming consoles and apps

The VSC Rating Board rates online games for all the major consoles, and works with other authorities to give ratings to apps on many platforms such as Google Play and Microsoft Store. 

For apps, the Board provides content information as well as details about:
  • Whether they contain in-app purchases
  • Whether the app can identify your child's location.
It’s important to consider age ratings for these platforms as well as games bought from a store.
As well as numerical PEGI ratings, you'll see the ‘Parental Guidance Recommended’ rating for some non-game apps.
The rating serves as a warning that these apps can contain user generated or curated content so it’s best to take a look at the app to see how it’s being usedTypically, this applies to products such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Other factors to consider: 

  • You may have introduced boundaries at home about when and what type of games your child is allowed to play. Remember to talk to your child about these rules and set out expectations if they stay with family friends or child care.  
  • Encourage your child to talk to you about the games they play and how they feel after playing them. Children are sometimes frightened by games but won’t tell anyone in case they take the game away. While children are still learning to distinguish between reality and fantasy, it’s important to talk to them about what they see in games.
  • If your children are playing games online don’t forget that you can also set parental controls on many devices to give you extra piece of mind.  The VSC website offers full instructions on how to set parental controls for the most popular devices.  

One final piece of advice:  if you’re worried about children playing video games on their own, then why not join them? is a fantastic resource for advice on gaming as a family.