Most parents would love to see their kids read more, but you wouldn’t let them read 50 Shades of Grey! Before buying a book for children, we first read the synopsis on the back or even a review of a certain book to ensure the contents are child-friendly and age apropriate. The same simple logic is needed all their media consumption and that includes video games. Now that an R18+ classification for video games has been introduced in Australia, it is timely that we all take stock of what that means for us as parents.
I am a big fan of anything that makes my job as a parent easier, and this new video games classification scheme has been created with parents in mind. We all know what R18+ means for film and DVDs; that is, the content is highly inappropriate for children, and now the same rules apply for video games. With this in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to review the classification as it stands for video games since the new law was passed on January 1st 2013.
Similar to film and DVDs, the classification scheme for computer and video games looks at SIX classifiable elements; themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity. Each game is judged on Context and importantly the impact; the higher the impact in each category, the higher the rating. (You can find more information – here)
|MA15+||Strong (the sale of games in this category is legally restricted)|
|R18+||High (the sale of games in this category is legally restricted)|
|RC||Very high (the sale of games in this category is legally prohibited)|
However, looking at the classification rating before buying a game is just the first step. It is our duty as guardian of our children’s worlds to judge each game separately based on what is suitable and what isn’t for our kids. Games that feature cartoon ghosts like the ones that appear in Mario games may be rated G, however my daughter used to have a fear of spooky spectres, so I had to make sure that she was okay when playing these games.
Another way to feel ‘in control’ and knowledgeable about what your kids are playing is to simply play the games that the kids are playing, to get a better feel for what is going on: I consider myself quite capable at FIFA 12 these days! Admittedly, this isn’t always possible; we are all extremely busy and finding the time to even sit down and drink a whole cup of tea is sometimes impossible, let alone immersing ourselves in a video game. This does not mean we can’t do some basic research on the games we are buying (and yes, WE should be making the buying decision, not the kids!).
There is certainly enough information out there, literally thousands of articles online, with reviews and commentary on nearly every game imaginable. If your crazy daily schedule of ferrying the kids back and forth to school, shopping, washing, preparing food and – dare I say it – working means you are too time-challenged to trawl through reams of background info, then go with what’s easy. The images on the case and the synopsis should give you a good idea of the nature of the game. Pictures of green zombies with blood dripping from their mouths or cars being blown into smithereens will probably not gain your tick of approval for “fun, educational games for my kids”, so use your instinct and choose wisely. Kids are always going to want what they can’t have – it’s a child’s prerogative – so it’s up to us to step-up to the plate and do some necessary research. The classification label will not only tell you the classification, but also give a little bit of narrative as to why it’s classified like that.
Finally, game consoles also have some terrific tools to help maintain control over what games can and can’t be played. My new best friend is the Parental Controls system, which is available on all major consoles (and mobile devices as well). These parental controls limit access to members of the household (who don’t have the password) to play games over a certain age rating. In a survey conducted on behalf of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) by Bond University, they found that a staggering 50 per cent of parents were not familiar with parental controls that limit what games can be played on a console, based on the classification ratings. Parental controls are particularly useful for households with children of varying ages – while my oldest just turned 18 and is able to play adult-themed content, I need to keep my youngest right away from this and the control settings help me do just that.
At the end of the day, it’s up to me as a parent to interpret what games are right for my kids, using the classifications as a tool in conjunction with the parental control features and my best judgement as a mother and a parent.
Checklist for choosing the right video games for your children:
- Check the Classification Rating
- Read reviews and a synopsis of the game – even looking at screenshots will be useful to help you determine the suitability of the game
- Play the game with your kids
- Set the Parental Controls
For more information please visit the iGEA website