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Becoming an independent gamer

This article was originally published in the Game Educator’s Handbook.

Usually when young children start to explore the world of games, they do so using their parent’s or family’s devices. It is important to ensure that for example toddlers or preschoolers do not spend long hours playing games or using other such content alone. Children need adults to help them understand and verbalise what they see in games or on the screen, and they also need face-to-face interaction, which is crucial for their development.

There is no certain right age for getting children their first own device, but in Finland, many families get their children their first phone when they start school. Parents should be aware that when children obtain their own device, they take a step towards becoming more independent users of media and internet, and mobile gamers. If a child will have their own smart device with an internet connection, it is important to agree on rules about the use of internet and downloading applications or mobile games. It is also wise to discuss and practise money use that gaming and using one’s mobile phone might involve. If a family member’s credit card is linked to a child’s device or user account, the settings should be checked to ensure that no purchases can be made without a password.

Before getting a child their own phone, it is important to practise situations related to gaming and other media use with the family’s shared devices. It is also a good idea to talk about age ratings and why a parent or guardian’s consent is needed for downloading some games and mobile applications. Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and Finnish data protection legislation, guardian’s consent is required for those information society services in which children younger than the indicated age rating give their personal data.

Games are classified according to the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system. The current age ratings of digital games (3, 7, 12, 16 and 18) do not indicate the technical difficulty of games or their suitability for children of a certain age; instead, they warn about content that might be harmful for children and young people.

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