Establishing Household Rules

Household rules go a long way to helping manage your kids’ video game play. Have a conversation around screen time, in-game purchases, online communication, and more.

Establishing and enforcing household rules comes with the territory if you’re a parent. And most parents have rules to manage what their kids play, how much money (if any) they can spend on video games (including in-game purchases), who they can play with online, and what they can do if they encounter uncomfortable situations when playing with others. In some cases, like spending money, these are hard and fast rules, with little to no flexibility. In others, like time spent, parents may want to reserve the right to be slightly more flexible.

Here are the most common rules parents say they set to manage their kids’ video game experiences. The good news is that in each of these cases parental controls on your child’s device (or through a device’s mobile app that you can download onto your phone) can help enforce these rules.

Getting Permission to Play a New Game

Not only is this a great way to keep track of what your kids are playing, but it’s also an opportunity to check the ratings before making a decision. This process opens the door for a conversation with your kids about why certain games are OK to play and others may need a little more time. Every child is different, and no one knows better what’s best for your kids than you!  What’s appropriate for one child, may not be for another. Some parents are more sensitive about certain types of content and interactive features than others. And other parents might feel the exact opposite!  That’s why we provide so many tools for parents to help them make informed decisions.

82% of parents say that their kids must ask their permission before they play a new game.

Managing Money Spent

You can buy games directly on many devices, and some games also allow players to spend money on in-game items, such as new outfits or weapons for your character or the ability to advance to a new level. Some parents don’t allow their child to spend any money on new games or in-game purchases without their permission. Other parents give their kids an allowance or purchase gift cards or points for their child to use how they want.

92% of parents have rules around in-game purchases.

Playing Video Games Online
  • Playing video games online is a great way to keep in touch with friends and make some new ones. It can also be a good way for kids to build self-esteem and confidence in their ability to compete against other players and to develop team-building skills.  That said, not every child is ready for this. Some parents start by only allowing their kids to play with friends from school or other in-person activities. Other parents are ok with their kids playing with friends and friends-of-friends. Either way, parents should keep tabs on their child’s online friend list.
  • Parental controls can help you manage whether and with whom your kids can play online. As your kids mature, you’ll want to be sure to revisit your rules about online gameplay regularly and discuss what makes the most sense in an open and non-judgmental way.
  • It’s also helpful to discuss what to do if your kids encounter someone behaving inappropriately online. This would go beyond friendly “trash talk” into bullying or harassment. Most players do not behave this way but using in-game tools your child can report, mute, and/or block those that do. It’s also a good idea to review a game’s community guidelines with your child to have a clearer understanding of what’s expected of players.
  • Make sure your child knows to never share personal information online with anyone or move to another online platform to meet up, especially with those they do not know in real life.
  • Most importantly, you should encourage your kids to open up to you about any situations that make them uncomfortable and know that there’s a solution short of revoking permission to play the game!

76% of parents limit who their kids can play with online. Furthermore, 91% of parents have strict rules about not sharing personal information with other players online.

Setting Time Limits
  • Establishing rules around when and how much time your child can play games is pretty standard for most parents. Whether the rules focus on total number of hours per week, which days of the week, or the context (only after chores and/or homework are done), children benefit from knowing what the limits are.
  • Parents have the additional choice to activate parental controls on their child’s device to help enforce those rules when they’re not around.
  • Understanding the flow of a game your child is playing will help minimize upset if you’re trying to get them to stop, especially if they’re in the middle of a match with friends or about to accomplish a critical mission.
  • Setting up game devices in a common area in your home also gives you the ability to manage the amount of screen time, among other aspects of your child’s gameplay.

79% of parents have household rules around when and for how long their kids can play video games.

Providing Accurate Age Information
  • It’s important that an accurate age or birthdate is used whenever your child is registering for a game or a platform or trying to access content that is age-gated (i.e., when they’re asked to enter their birthdate or age). Remember, U.S. law bans the collection and sharing of children’s (under the age of 13) personal information (full name, address, screen name or email address, Social Security Number, etc.) without a parent’s verifiable consent.
  • And platforms and other online service providers like websites take additional measures when they know that a child is using their product to prevent exposing them to certain types of content and marketing. If your child indicates they’re older than they really are (or using a parent’s or older sibling’s account), those protections will be overridden.
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