"Ctrl+Alt+Delete: A Parent’s Guide to Gaming

"Ctrl+Alt+Delete: A Parent’s Guide to Gaming

Nine in ten UK kids (89%) now play video games. While gaming brings its own parenting challenges, such as how much screen time to allow and what games are appropriate at what age, the good news is that studies show it has some real benefits, too, from fine-tuning problem-solving skills and encouraging creative thinking to providing much-needed downtime. 



“Gaming is now an established part of childhood, and it offers an important social outlet for many kids and teens. The key is to ensure children are playing responsibly, and this includes being aware of in-game spending, which is not always easy when no physical money is changing hands. Putting simple measures in place such as spending limits is one way to manage this, and provides a good opportunity to teach children how to spend money safely and responsibly in our increasingly cashless society.”


Louise Hill, CEO and co-founder of GoHenry


Research from Oxford University has found that people who play video games report greater well-being than those who don’t. Gaming also promotes critical thinking skills as it places a player in an unknown environment with an objective. As a result, gamers become efficient at creative thinking and problem-solving to reach their goal. Gaming has also been shown to increase the efficiency of spatial memory - the cognitive ability to recall the spatial relationships between objects or locations. 


Benefits aside, there are, of course, some real concerns about how to help kids game responsibly. Here’s what’s worth discussing with your kids.

Gaming boundaries


Research from Internet Matters found children cited ‘spending too much time online’ as the issue they experienced most with gaming. With 68% of parents also concerned about this issue, ensure you set gaming boundaries for screen time to help kids maintain a balanced lifestyle. 


This means setting specific time limits for gaming sessions to prevent excessive screen time and establishing clear rules regarding when and for how long gaming is allowed each day or week. Also, be sure to factor in the different kinds of gaming in your rules: app gaming, console gaming, and gaming at friends' houses.

Gaming behaviour


All kids get excited when gaming and this can spill over into shouting and being rude to friends they are playing with. Talk to them about appropriate language and the behaviour you expect, as well as what they should and shouldn’t put up with from their friends. 


This is a good place to talk about online bullying via gaming, also known as "gaming harassment" or cyberbullying in gaming. This can take various forms, including verbal harassment, insults, threats, exclusion from groups or activities, spreading rumours or false information, and intentionally sabotaging gameplay or progress. This kind of online bullying can also occur on gaming platforms, multiplayer online games, social gaming networks, voice chat services, and gaming forums. 


Playing age-appropriate games


Monitor and regulate the types of games your child plays based on their age, maturity level, and family values. Set clear guidelines regarding the content, ratings, and themes of games that are suitable for your child.

In the UK, video games are typically assigned age ratings by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system. PEGI ratings range from 3 (suitable for all ages) to 18 (suitable for adults only). Check the PEGI rating on the game's packaging or online store listing to determine if it's appropriate for your child's age.


Also, research the content of the game by reading reviews and summaries from reputable sources. Look for information about violence, language, drug references, and other potentially objectionable material. 

Finally use parental controls and settings available on gaming consoles, computers, and mobile devices to restrict access to inappropriate content, limit screen time, and manage online interactions. 


Gaming privacy


Teach your kids never to share personal information with strangers or anyone who they feel they ‘know’ while gaming, and emphasise the importance of keeping personal information private to avoid risks such as identity theft and cyberbullying.

  • What helps is to encourage your kids to use safe and anonymous usernames or gamertags when gaming online and to be cautious when accepting friend requests or adding people they don't know to their gaming networks. Remind them that not everyone online is who they claim to be, and they should only interact with people they trust and know in real life.

Finally, emphasise that scammers and criminals may pose as peer gamers to obtain personal or financial information. 


In-game spending


In-game currency is any money used within a game to buy items, tools, or unwrap player packs. It may be known as Gold, Points, Coins, or Credits. Gaming companies monetise a game using these currencies, which are designed to encourage the player to buy more.


Part of the issue with in-game currency is that in the midst of a game, kids often forget that the currencies are linked to real-world money. The thrill of new skins or items and new tools often leads them to spend more than they would in real life.


What helps is to discuss the concept of spending wisely and making informed choices about how to spend while gaming. Establish clear guidelines and boundaries for spending in-game currency to help kids understand the importance of setting limits and budgeting their virtual money just like they would in the real world. 


To play it safe, remind kids that it’s important to only buy in-game currencies within the game itself.  If you’re worried about your child getting carried away and spending all their pocket money on virtual currencies, it’s easy to set limits and restrictions on spending within the GoHenry app. This means you don’t have to worry about them spending all their money while gaming, and it also serves to remind them that virtual currencies do cost ‘real’ money. 


Written by Anita Naik Published Apr 22, 2024 ● 3 mins