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The 21st century has birthed children that are more technologically advanced and can easily adapt to the fast-paced developments that are constantly introduced by the world of tech. Hand over your gadget to your child and you’ll notice how quickly they are able to navigate through it. Most parents can even relate to having games on their phones downloaded by their children. Talking about games, today we continue to part 3 of our gaming series, bringing you, the parent, into the world of e-gaming.

Last week, we focussed on the positive developmental effects gaming has on children. If you missed it, quickly catch up here, and come back to this blog post, as we focus on the dangers of e-gaming on children and what to watch out for as a parent, with the Film and Publication Board. 

Video games in most parent’s eyes have quite a bad reputation, and in most cases, understandably so.

The most common concerns parents have about gaming include:
  • The addictive nature of games. Parents worry that video games have the potential to dominate their children’s lives,
  • Poor academic performance due to the lack of discipline when it comes to the amount of time spent online,
  • Increased aggression incited by the violence they are exposed to, as they teach the wrong values,
  • The way it makes children prone to online dangers,
  • How it has the potential to make socially isolated children find comfort in video games rather than interacting with other children,
  • How it introduces easy access to other online content, which may expose them to age-inappropriate material.

That’s why it is important for parents to not only get involved in their children’s gaming but be aware of the classifications, age restrictions, online predators, scammers, and so many other potential threats and content that may not be suitable for young minds.

A recent study by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) (called Convergence Survey) assesses the correlation between the Classification Guidelines used by the FPB to assign age ratings, and the values and norms in our South African society. It also assesses the level of compliance by the public when they allow children to access the content of films and games. The FPB has noted that it is concerning that the vast majority of the 7000 respondents surveyed indicated that they are not aware of the video games being played in their household. Notable exceptions were in the Western Cape (73% were aware) and Mpumalanga (55.7% were aware). 

The study noted that “parents, especially busy parents, may sometimes use media gadgets including television as ‘babysitters’ or to ‘calm down’ the children. In doing so, they would be exposing their children to harmful media content. Similarly, purchasing video games for their children without paying attention to age limits and other descriptors may have the same effect.”

Psychological effects video games can have on children include:
  • Addiction 
  • Anxiety 
  • Low Self-Esteem 
  • Alexithymia 
  • Aggression 
  • Anger
  • Isolation
  • Depression 
  • Obsession 

The FPB notes that because of the borderless nature of the internet, it is an even bigger imperative for parents to monitor what their children access.

The Film and Publication Board recommends that parents practice the following for safeguarding:

  1. Adhere To Age Ratings. 

Parents should not purchase or allow their children to access games that have not been rated. This would also include games that can be purchased on the streets illegally, as they are not from registered distribution channels. The FPB regularly participates in raids with the SAPS to remove this illegal content from the streets, however, parents should be aware of the danger that these illegal distributors pose and never purchase from them, no matter how good the price is. 

The FPB assigns ratings to films and games with the purpose of advising parents about the type of content contained. The rating indicates the level above which the content would be morally or psychologically harmful to a child. These FPB Classification Guidelines are regularly tested against social norms through public dialogue and against child psychology models. 

Classifiable elements detailed in the guidelines include; 

Violence (V),

Nudity (N), 

Sex, (S) 

Bad Language (L) and 

Prejudice (P). 

In terms of video games, parents should take careful note of the “CI” rating assigned by the FPB. This indicates “Competitive Intensity” and is assigned to games where the player is encouraged to compete with the game or other players to progress to higher levels. Often in a game containing violence, this means the player needs to act with higher degrees of violence in order to progress further in the game. This has the effect of desensitisation to violence and is deemed to be morally harmful to children.

2. Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Gaming can be incredibly addictive, even for adults, especially in cases where players progress through levels to unlock other areas of the game. This addiction can have disastrous effects on children engaging in the “normal” offline world, impact relationships and affect focus on schoolwork. Parents should limit their children’s screen time to avoid this pitfall.

3. Look Out For Access To ‘Other’ Advertised Content

Pop-ups can be blocked. On your computer, open Chrome. At the top right, click More. Settings. Under “Privacy and security,” click Site settings. Click Pop-ups and redirects.  

It is important to note that most free apps that are available automatically allow advertising on the apps, try to avoid free apps, where you have less control as a parent on what adverts your child might be exposed to, but if you have the correct age settings on your credentials such content won’t be made available as they will be filtered out by the browsers.

Most child-safe browsers do not allow third-party advertising to protect children from inappropriate content.

4. Set Your Child’s Devices And Browsers To An Appropriate Age

Parents need to get to know the gadgets that they are purchasing for their children, as well as the settings that need to be adjusted to make those gadgets safe for children to use. Parents can ask the stores where they purchase such devices to adjust settings for the appropriate age of their children if they are unable to adjust it themselves.

Most App stores have age ratings assigned on their games, and there are several browsers designed especially for children. Some safe browsers for kids can be researched here: https://www.maketecheasier.com/kids-friendly-browsers-for-kids/ In addition, Google has settings that profile content and sites based on the age that you have set on the user profile, hence the importance of setting your child’s devices with the appropriate age. 

5. Track Your Child’s Screen Habits & Content 

“My boys’ Xbox has a Family App where I can track the boys’ screen time and what they are playing. I am even prompted or receive notifications when my boys want to download new games or want to game with other people online,” says Olwethu.

Where you can, try to place safety at the centre and track this behaviour. 

Wrapping Up

Online gaming has positive benefits when used correctly. Too much of anything is bad, that’s why parents need to monitor and help their children navigate gaming better. Keeping guidelines in mind will help you discern which games are appropriate and which ones are not. 

Next up, we will be looking at health risks associated with gaming.