Overview: It can be hard for parents to know if the games their kids want to play are safe and age-appropriate. We’ve compiled a list of considerations that will help you choose wisely. And while no place on the internet is perfectly safe for kids, we’ve found four game sites and one stand-alone game that come from organizations that make a real effort to protect kids and quickly address issues, making it easy to spot which games are best for kids. The four sites (and one stand-alone game) we recommend:
- PBS Kids
- Ticket to Ride
- Nintendo Switch
Read on to learn why we recommend them.
Things to Consider When Evaluating a Game for Kids
When considering a gaming site for your kids, whether free or paid, consider the following factors:
- Who runs the site? A trusted children’s brand is more likely to have robust systems in place to protect kids.
- What information does the site collect? Limiting your child’s online footprint until they can decide what they want to share as adults is an important step.
- What features does the site have? Social features like chat windows should be clearly marked as monitored. Similarly, watch out for sites that let users share links to unmonitored platforms, although parental control software can mitigate this risk.
- What are the site’s policies for dealing with abuse? Check policies for punishments, actions taken, and other steps as needed.
- What tools do you have to limit abuse? How easy is it to report users, block rude people, and otherwise exert control over your child’s emotional space in the game world?
- Are the games any good? If kids get bored quickly, they might wander.
- Does the game require in-app payments or have a “pay to win” structure?
- What is the content rated? If the game is on a console or available at an app store, it should have a visible rating somewhere on the site or packaging.
Five Games and Game Sites That Do It Right
1. PBS Kids: Aimed at preschoolers and up, this site offers games built around PBS’s popular kids’ shows. The games are designed to be played either alone or with a parent and have an educational bent. As the site is owned and run by PBS Kids, there’s no advertising.
2. Lego: Games using Lego’s unique building toys are available on almost any platform you can find and are carefully curated by the company to be family-friendly. Generally, they fall under two categories: in-house Lego brands, like Ninjago; and third-party pop culture icons, such as Batman. Most games are targeted at older elementary schoolers and up and tend to be platforming games with occasional cartoon violence.
3. Hearthstone: Tied to the popular World of Warcraft franchise, Hearthstone is a free-to-play game suitable for tweens and teens and available on major mobile and desktop platforms. The game is light-hearted and colorful but has deep strategic and tactical mechanics tweens and teens will find engaging. There are in-app purchases, but they’re not necessary to play the game’s campaign or even to beat players with better decks.
4. Ticket To Ride: This online version of a popular board game is ideal for families. The online version makes it much easier to manage, with no cards to lose or little pieces to go missing. It also teaches kids to plan ahead and strategize.
5. Nintendo Switch: Nintendo views itself as a toy company; as a result, the online spaces on its platform are carefully monitored. While no platform is perfect, Nintendo’s family focus makes it more parent-friendly than its competitors in the console gaming space.
While these games should provide hours of safe, kid-friendly fun, parents can’t always monitor their kids’ online activities. That’s where parental control software like Screen Time can help.
To learn more about Screen Time, contact us today!