If you have children of any age, it's getting more difficult to find clean, wholesome gaming options. Violent games are more readily accessible than in the past when kids had to wait for their parents to take them to the store, decide if it was OK for their child to play and then purchase the games.
It can be a bit unsettling to know children today have complete freedom to search, download and play any game they can find from app stores. Don't believe me? Google's Play Store is crammed full of nasty, disturbing, violent video games aimed at kids.
The ratings themselves don't necessarily mean anything anymore. A multitude of games from the Google Play Store that state they are rated safe for kids are loaded with guns, gore, zombies, fighting, battles and mutilation with little being done to stop the influx of inappropriate and dangerous content.
What types of games are in the Google Play Store?
There are games aimed at "Everyone," "Family Friendly," "Everyone 10+," or even "Teen" that probably shouldn't be. Aside from guns and gore, many of them include different types of violence. And, even though the characters aren't always human, it can still leave an impression on kids.
Some of these games consist of blowing things up with bombs, Zombies, Alien Shooters, Swamp Attacks, games of throwing knives, and some even use harpoons to impale. What's worse about some of these games are they're also labeled as "Editors' Choice."
Most of the problems consist of improper ratings, which would be fine if they were changed to Teen or Mature 17+ levels instead of their current placement in the app store.
A majority of the items listed above would scare or terrify small children based on the visuals alone, content aside. Young children exposed to questionable content also are given microtransaction gambling, which is another current staple of the gaming industry.
Although there are parental control permissions on the Play Store, many of these games are marked safe for children. Which couldn't be further from the truth.
Are violent games dangerous for kids?
Video game violence research has found that older teens' are less likely to have real-world behavior impacted. However, there's also evidence that violent media can be distressing for adolescent children which creates the impression that their world is more dangerous than what it really is.
“Early childhood exposure to violent movies and television programmes is associated with a number of adverse cognitive, emotional, and behavioral consequences,” says Caroline Fitzpatrick, assistant professor of psychology at the Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia, Canada. “Video games that reward players for violent behavior, as is the case with first-person shooter games, are likely to have an especially pronounced effect on young children’s development.”
Google doesn't seem to have any systems in place monitored by humans to police ratings, whereas Apple does on all apps. Despite developers being required to fill out a questionnaire upon uploading an app or game, Google doesn't vet the accuracy of a rating unless it's submitted for the families area of the Play Store.
Although ratings are just one tool to help parents avoid exposing their kids to unsuitable content, parents still need to invest more time in recognizing and involving themselves with the games their children play. Google Play does have a Family Link device management service, but using it comes at the cost of creating an account for your child and allowing some of their activities to be tracked.
If you find an app or game that you don't think is appropriately rated, you can report them on Pegi's contact form.
Video games do make kids violent, study says
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that there is, in fact, a link between violent video games and violent actions in children.