child on screen gaming

Andy, who has three children of his own and writes under the banner of ‘Geek Dad’, has written about technology for families for 15 years.

He is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC and Sky News and recently released a book called Taming Gaming for parents. He also runs the Family Video Game Database ( to help parents keep games safe and healthy for children.

To watch him talking about online safety click here.

So, if you find the internet a daunting place and you’re not sure how to keep up with your kids online, then follow these easy rules from Andy – and learn how you can share the online experience with your children while having fun together.

And don’t forget to follow the links for more in-depth help, insights and information.


Ensuring video games stay healthy in your family 

Video games can seem like they are taking over. Particularly in the last 12 months with children spending much more time at home, it can be a worry for them to transition from screen-based learning in the daytime to screen-based entertainment in the evening. 

Don’t worry. We have the information you need to ensure that the video games your child plays are not only sage and appropriate but actually contribute to family life and their well-being.


Online gaming dangers

Video games used to be short, expensive, difficult and off-line. Many popular games children play, like Fortnite, are endless, free, relatively easy and online. That last change is a big one. A large part of the excitement and entertainment of games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Among Us is that children can play with their friends online.

During the last 12 months, many children have been helped by connecting with school friends they can’t see in person. Playing an online video game with friends is a great way to stay in touch. Listen to your child while they are playing these games and you will hear them talk about many different topics, not just who to shoot next.

Of course, along with the benefits come some important aspects to be aware of when your child is playing online. Who are they playing with? Is the content of the game appropriate? Are they spending money?


Who are they playing with?

The first thing to consider when a child starts playing online is who they are interacting with. It can be easy to assume that playing a game is less concerning than social media, but modern games let you chat, talk and share video with other players. 

The best thing to do is to keep your gaming devices in shared family spaces so you can see what kids are doing and hear who they are talking to. You can also specify whether they can accept friend requests and messages from other players in the Family Settings and Parental controls of the system.

Many families have been using games to stay in touch with each other during this period. Playing games that let you chat while you compete can be a really nice way to keep up with siblings, grandparents and cousins not in the same house.

Tip: It’s a good idea to play some simple online games together with your child as you are learning this new activity. This list of beginner online games is a good place to start.


Is the content of the game appropriate?

It’s easy to forget that video games are like other forms of media. Just as we check the age rating for films and TV shows before younger children watch, it’s important to check the age rating on video games. 

The PEGI ratings provide a clear guide of the suitability of a game’s content for players aged 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18. As well as the age rating you can get more information about a game from the back of the box, or the descriptor icons on websites selling games. This tells you whether it was for Violence, Sex, Language or Horror that the game was rated.

Tip: You can search for games of a particular age rating for the system that you have on the Family Video Game Database:


Are they spending money?

Video games are commercial products designed to make money for the people who make them. However, they make money in many different ways. It’s important to understand that this might not always be with an up-front cost.

Many games are free to start playing and then offer option purchases of items that provide cosmetic or useful content in the game. Some of these purchases are for a chance of winning something rare, like opening a pack of football stickers, known as “loot boxes”.

Because of this, you should take care that any credit card or money associated with your device is password protected before a child starts using it. This is simply a matter of setting up a PIN on your user account or card to ensure no unexpected purchases are made. 

Tip: You can search for games that offer different ways of paying:


You’re ready to go online with your kids…

This advice will set you off on the right foot in the world of online gaming. But the best advice is to play games yourself and with your child.

That way, you can learn, make mistakes safely and create an open conversation about online gaming. Not only does this mean they will tell you if something makes them feel uneasy online, but you can have a lot of fun playing together.