Online gameplay has brought additional depth and diversity to how games can be enjoyed, from simple arcade games to massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), which can involve a huge number of players participating in a single online game at the same time. The result is a myriad of virtual communities, where players meet and interact to create an even more enjoyable experience. But these communities also expose players, especially children, to concerns and risks as we know them from the social norms in real life.
User-generated content (or UGC), created by players for the game, can sometimes be unsuitable for young people and a mismatch with the age rating given for the game. Inappropriate content like that should always be reported, so the platform or the publisher of the game can take action.
Players may engage in behaviour that is not suitable for young people. They may hear offensive language or experience bullying in games, there can be unsporting conduct like cheating or aggressiveness towards others. Game publishers have policies in place that allow them to take action against such behaviour, so these should always be reported, using the available mechanisms.
Safety tips for children and young people:
- Bad behaviour, bad language, or cheating is NOT okay! You can block other players from contacting you, report them to the game provider or platform, and tell your parents.
- Tell your parents right away if you come across any information that makes you feel uncomfortable. This can include pictures, videos, and audio or text messages.
- Do not give out personal information such as your home address, e-mail address, telephone number, passwords or pictures, or even simple things such as your daily routine, school name or hobbies.
- Never agree to get together with someone you meet online without checking with your parents first.
The PEGI Code of Conduct includes a set of provisions to promote a minimum level of protection for young people in the online gaming environment. Signatories of the Code commit themselves to banning inappropriate material from their site and to ensure appropriate behaviour among users.
The main provisions are:
- Appropriate reporting mechanisms
Appropriate mechanisms will be in place to allow game players to report the presence of undesirable content on any related online environment.
- Community standards for online subscribers
Signatories of the PEGI Code of Conduct will prohibit subscribers from introducing content or indulging in online behaviour which is illegal, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or which might impair the development of young people.
- Removal of inappropriate content
Video game companies will use their best endeavours to ensure that online services under their control are kept free of content which is illegal, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or which might impair the development of young people.
- A responsible advertisement policy
- all advertisements will accurately reflect the nature and content of the product represented and wherever reasonably practicable the rating issued
- all advertisements shall be created with a sense of responsibility towards the public
- no advertisement shall contain any content that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence
- advertising for products rated 16+ or 18+ shall not be specifically targeted towards those who are younger
- ancillary or separate products that are being sold or promoted in association with a core product must be appropriate for the audience for which the core product is intended
- licence holders should inform the public by means of a general statement of the existence of sponsorships and/or the existence of ‘product placements’ associated with any online service