A recent survey has shown that only one in five parents of children who spend money in video games are actually using parental controls to limit that spending or their playing time. Which suggests that parents need more help and encouragement to make use of such essential tools.
The statistic has been revealed by UK trade body Ukie to bolster the launch of its new Get Smart About P.L.A.Y campaign. It comes from a November study titled Europe: In-Game Spending Study by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and Game Track.
The campaign is fronted by former England and Man Utd star Rio Ferdinand, whose own experience as a parent and keen gamer, along with his high profile, made him a good choice to try and boost that 1 in 5 stat.
Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie. “If a child was given a bike at Christmas, we would expect them to also be given stabilisers – family controls are really no different.”
The campaign works to amplify the ongoing work done by Ask About Games. “This is refreshing a lot of the advice, the step-by-step guides that we’ve got on Ask About Games,” said Twist, speaking to MCV. “It’s really kind of trying to reach different kinds of audiences, who may not be familiar with games, but the children, or people in their care, love playing games.”
MCV/DEVELOP’s only reservation is that as a footballer, Ferdinand has unsurprisingly worked with betting companies in the past, which is the kind of connection, even at arm’s length, that the industry could arguably do without. That said, he doesn’t have any current affiliations to such companies and his profile is big enough to cut through to many parents where a simple industry-led campaign never would.
Ferdinand said: “My kids love playing video games but as a parent it is important for me to be able to manage the amount of time they play. Family controls can help achieve a balance at home between screen time and other activities. They’re easy to use and save a lot of arguments in the long run.”
A further poll carried out by YouGov for Ukie also found that “more than half of parents and carers in the UK are concerned about how much time their children spend playing games.” So getting that 1-in-5 figure up to the 1-in-2 mark would be a good first target.
The campaign breaks things down into four easy steps for parents who want to get more involved and take more responsibility for their younglings, or “setting parameters around play” as Ukie puts it:
P – Play with your kids. Understand what they play and why.
L – Learn about family controls. Visit askaboutgames.com for simple step-by-step guides.
A – Ask what your kids think. Discuss ground rules before setting restrictions.
Y – You’re in charge. Set restrictions that work for your family.
With the mass media and the government still needling the industry with concerns over monetisation and the supposed relationship to gambling, taking the issue back to its origin, and better educating parents to try and solve some of the problematic scenarios with the tools already available is a very sensible idea. And certainly a more palatable one than putting in place more draconian legislation on the industry as a whole.
“There are some incredibly sophisticated controls that can help you to make sure that you’re controlling spending, controlling time spent playing. But this requires a combined approach,” said Twist. “You’ve got to give it time to bed in as a regime in your family. And you’ve also got to be strong and stick to the ground rules that you set as a family,” but that work will pay off Twist continues, “because games are fun and playing games together is really fun and fulfilling, and a highly creative activity.”