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 identified online games that come from reputable organizations who make a real effort to provide a safe, educational online gaming experience.
Things to Consider When Evaluating a Game for Kids
When determining whether a gaming site is appropriate 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.
10 Fun Online Games and Game Sites
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. Sheppard Software: This educational site features a collection of games to help children learn math, science, foreign languages and more. They also include puzzle games to help children with critical, outside-the-box thinking.
6. Mr. Nussbaum: Mr. Nussbaum has another collection of educational games, sorted by topic with helpful age/grade-level recommendations. Topics include Science, Social Studies, Language, and much more.
7. National Geographic Kids: Nat Geo has an entire site dedicated to childhood education, helping students K-12 learn more about nature and wildlife outside the classroom. This site features a section filled with exciting games to help students learn more about their favorite plants, animals, sustainability, and more.
8. Poptropica: This is a robust adventure game where kids can explore an exciting virtual world, completing puzzles, building problem-solving skills, learning historical facts, and more. This game features bright visuals, upbeat music, and friendly characters for your child to interact with along their journey. As an added bonus, Poptropica has its own mobile app (for iOS and Android) so your child can play on the go!
9. ABCya!: Another site full of educational games for elementary and middle school children, ABCya! organizes their collection by grade level so you can hone in on specific themes and lessons that coincide with your child’s primary education.
10. Arcademics: This collection of learning games, spanning several topics like specific mathematical functions (Divisions, Multiplication, etc.) and some unique, everyday topics like Money & Time that aren’t covered on other sites. Another fun twist is that Arcademics offers several multiplayer games where players compete against one another. The added layer of competition makes these games even more engaging, and hopefully something your child will look forward to playing.
Games for Learning About Internet Safety
Some games on the web are specifically designed to teach children how to safely navigate the internet and avoid inappropriate content, scams, predators, etc. One or more of these games should be included in your child’s education as early as possible to ensure they have a happy, healthy experience online. Here are some of our favorites:
- Safe Online Surfing: This surfing-themed game, provided on FBI.gov, quizzes students on internet safety and rewards correct answers by steering their surfboard out of the way of obstacles. More correct answers will navigate them to the end of each level safely, progressing them around fun virtual islands. This game is sorted by grade level, with simpler, introductory questions for 3rd graders and more complex concepts for 8th graders.
- Cyber FIve by ABCya!: This animated journey follows two friends through a day at school, addressing several internet safety fundamentals along the way. This game is appropriate for young children who are just getting started on the internet.
- Interland: Interland is an adventure game created by Google to support their “Be Internet Awesome” initiative, a training course designed to help kids learn internet safety through hands-on experiences. In a series of challenging minigames, students will learn about responsible communication, identifying spam and internet scams, being kind and sharing positivity online, and more.
Gain Additional Safety with Parental Control Software
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, sign up for free and try the app today!