Games like Call of Duty and Fortnite are a huge hit for teenagers around the world but their success has come at a cost for some. Prince Harry recently called for a ban on Fornite which he said was “created to addict”, while Call of Duty (COD) will be familiar to parents across the UK for its graphic content and widespread success among teenagers.
Ultimately, the age restrictions are there for a reason. For children in care or those who have experienced trauma and/or abuse through childhood, these games can trigger challenging behaviours.
Another challenge is the cost of in-game purchases and the addictive nature of the games. A GP in Leeds recently “prescribed” a 2-week ban from Minecraft and Fortnite for an 11-year old boy as he was concerned about the impact gaming was having on the boy’s life.
There are no hard and fast rules for this, each family is different and a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t realistic. With foster carers however, we need to be vigilant and honest. Children staying up until 2 in the morning playing video games is not appropriate, nor is young children playing games that are recommended for 18-year-olds and over. But there needs to be a balance and compromises will inevitably be made.
We’ve made a list of 6 top tips for foster carers and parents when it comes to age-restricted content.
1. Have a cut-off time
Have a schedule or cut-off time for playing the games and stick to it. Be clear that after this time the game must be switched off – the same could apply to mobile phones or tablets. This isn’t about stopping a young person having fun, it’s more about creating healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle that will be carried forward into adulthood.
2. Sit beside the young person
If they are playing a game, how does it make you feel sitting beside them? If you feel uncomfortable (imagine watching a sex scene in a movie beside your child) then explain what it is that makes you feel uncomfortable and apologise for the consequence. “My home is my safe-haven and I feel really uncomfortable with you playing this game (or watching this movie). Sorry, I know you’ve played it before/your friends are playing it, but I can’t let you play it under this roof. What other games can we play?”.
3. Ask what it is about the game they like?
Is it the guns? Which guns? Why those guns? Try to enquire instead of prescribing your views about the game onto a young person. Have they played with nerf guns before? This is a fun alternative to COD and it’s more ‘real life’! You could even play these games in the house (ps. Family Care are not responsible for breakages!)
4. Consider in-built restrictions
Many games (such as Call of Duty) have graphic content filters which you can turn off to limit the level of violence shown. Have a look for yourself and see the difference. Here’s a video showing the filter turned on and off. This is also a good website for parents of gamers.
5. Play video games together
If you feel comfortable, play the video games together and try to talk through what you’re seeing. Children need parents’ help to interpret content in video games, and you can help reinforce educational lessons or direct them away from undesirable content by explaining why it doesn’t feel right.
6. Get creative
There will be disappointment when the young person is told they can’t play the game, but then that’s part of parenting. Get your creative hat on by thinking about other ways you can stimulate the young person and keep things engaging. Board games are a great alternative, as are jigsaw puzzles; both of which can be done together. Poems, riddles and jokes are also a good shout.
It’s hard, it really is. But as foster carers we are not the legal parent for a child, the local authority (ie. Birmingham, Lancashire) have legal responsibility and we have to respect that. If you’re not sure, seek advice from your fostering agency or social worker. We all want the best for these kids and sometimes that means taking a stance.
Healing Pasts | Building Futures