Apps and Games
We know that children and young people are using several apps and playing many games, it can be hard to keep up to date. Here we will give you the information that you need, as well as useful guides that can help to keep your children safe.
Age Rating - 13 (17 on apple store)
Discord is a messaging app, allowing users to talk on various different subjects. Originally used by gamers to communicate, it has now grown and is accessible for any user. The app is split into servers, these are the different rooms, each with their own topic and focus. Some servers may be private, and only allow people invited to view the content, however some are open for anyone to join. People can communicate through text chat, voice calls or video calls.
We have had a few issues recently with young people using Discord. There are several severs with adult content that children and young people can view, a lot of this adult content can be quite niche, including sexual fantasies and fetishes. As a result of this, they may decide to research and explore further. As all content on Discord is user generated, there is a lot of information, not all of it factual. This can easily confuse young people, giving them incorrect and unsafe information, or cause them to be unsure as to what is acceptable and what isn't. Along side this, they will not know the ages of the people they are talking to, or whether they are safe to talk to or not.
Age Rating - 13
Omegle is a free online chat and video chat website that allows users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously. Users must be aged 13 years plus and any one aged between 13 and 18 are encouraged to gain parental consent.
Omegle offers a monitored service and an unmonitored service. The monitored service is supposed to protect younger users from inappropriate content, including nudity and sexualised behaviour, however it has a reputation of not being very effective. The unmonitored service is pretty much anything goes and has a reputation for a lot of sexualised content and nudity. There is also a lot of reports of users dressing up as horror movie characters and trying to scare and intimidate others by making threats such as “I know where you live” and “I’m watching you”.
In our opinion Omegle is not suitable for children under 13 years of age due to the risk of being exposed to inappropriate and explicit content. Alongside this, the site encourages users to chat and interact with strangers. We also find it hard to recommend Omegle for many users aged 13 and over due to the reasons already mentioned.
Age Rating - 13
Monkey, like Omegle is a random video chat app. It allows people to talk with strangers through video chat. The same risks apply with this app.
As with Omegle, we do not think that Monkey is suitable for children and young people to use. We have had several reports of them seeing rude and inappropriate content. The logo is deceptive, as an emoji monkey looks like an app suitable for children.
Age Rating - 13
Houseparty is a video chat app. It allows up to 8 people to connect and chat with one another. Once a chat has been set up friends can join, as well as friends of friends. The app does have some safety features including making private chats that only invited people can join. With in video chats you can send private notes to individuals since the Corona virus lock-down has started, the popularity of Houseparty has increased.
As with other video chat apps, there are still risks of inappropriate content. Whilst the app does let you connect with friends, it also allows friends of friends to join, who you may not know. The app allows notes to be sent to people, this can be used just to message people. There is no guarantee that what is said in the app is private, as people can screen record. We think that you need to be careful with this app, and young people should be supervised when using it.
Age Rating - 13
TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, is a video streaming app and website. Users can either watch other people's videos or create their own. Videos are usually people lip syncing to their favourite songs, but can also be challenges, pranks, gaming or several other topics.
TikTok allows people to express their creative side, as well as learn new skills and video making techniques. Alongside this, there are risks to making, posting and viewing videos on TikTok. In Darlington we have had several incidents of young people posting videos whilst inappropriately dressed, or posting too much personal information. Video's can be commented on and users can send each other private messages, this can pose the risk of grooming or bullying. Accounts can be set to private, meaning that only friends can view your videos, something that DISP encourages all young people to do.
TikTok has released a new Family Safety feature. This will link a parents TikTok to their child's account. Parents will be able to limit or stop direct messaging, restrict certain contend and set time limits on usage of the app. The app will also send prompts to encourage users to take regular breaks. For more information see the BBC news article [external link]
Age Rating - 13
Snapchat is an image sharing app. It allows users to add friends and share photos and videos with one another. Pictures shared can last up to 10 seconds, or until they are closed. Once a video has been played it will close. After this they are unavailable. People can also set their photos and video's to be available for 24 hours, to do this they need to be sent to their Story.
People can also send private messages to others, which will become unavailable once read. It also uses location services, which if turned on will show where you are on a map for your friends.
This app has become popular with young people as it allows people to add filters to their pictures. these can be to change how the image looks to adding dog ears and other extras to people. The app is quick to use, which may mean that images are sent before people check to see if it was appropriate or weather they were showing anything in the background.
We know that some young people have used Snapchat to send inappropriate images, as they believe they become unavailable, however anything that is posted online can never be deleted. There is also the risk or the person receiving images to screen shot and share with others. The location services are also a concern, as it shows exactly where people are.
Xbox Game Pass and PS Now
Xbox and PlayStation both have a game streaming service. This allows people to subscribe to the service and play their collection of games. There is a good range of games, however not all are suitable for children and young people. Please be aware of this if you are signing up for your child. Always check what they are playing on and research whether the game is appropriate.
PEGI Rating - 12
Fortnite has been a huge success and its popularity with primary aged children doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. One of the reasons it’s become so popular is because the Battle Royal game is free to download and play. This may sound like a parents/carers dream, a free game, but be warned as the game contains a large number of in game purchases. Using the in game currency called VBucks (which you use real money to purchase) you can buy countless cosmetic items called skins and celebration animations and dances.
To win the game you have to be the last man standing and eliminate 99 other players. While the idea is to kill your opponents with various guns and weapons, the game is very cartoon like to look at and doesn’t feature any blood or gore. The game doesn’t have bad language in it but you can expect other players to use it during in game chat. This can be heard when using a headset or through the TV.
The explosion of popularity with Fortnite has resulted in some children and young people becoming obsessed with the game. It has become all they can play and think about. This highlights the need for responsible screen time and parental supervision.
Whilst the game is free to download and play, it is full of in game purchases. We have known children run up bills of hundreds of pounds without permission. Again parental controls are a must and can easily prevent unwanted spending.
We have experienced children as young as 7 years of age playing with strangers much older than them, who have gone on to ask the child for personal details such as address in return for the promise of free VBucks. In game chat can be disabled and caution must also be used as not everyone your child will be playing with will be around their own age.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare
PEGI Rating - 18
The brand new Call of Duty game from the popular series, often referred to as COD. Features a graphically impressive campaign that’s not for the fainthearted. This first-person shooter sees you fighting terrorists on the streets of London and fighting alongside a local militia in a fictional Middle Eastern country. The game also has a ton of online multi-player options, and has a new battle royale mode, called Warzone. This mode can support up to 150 players at once.
I’ve played the game and while I can recommend this to fans of the series I would strongly recommend that no one buys this for their children. This is an 18 years rated game and the campaign is brutal, depicting many horrors of modern conflict and terror such as gas attacks and civilian causalities (including women and children). It’s 18 for a reason and a very realistic looking game.
As with other battle royale game, Warzone attract players of all ages. There is no way of knowing everyone that you are playing with, and weather conversations that players are having are suitable.
PEGI Rating - 3
The popular football series returns for another year. The game features a host of features and game modes including career mode and online play. The dream team mode allows you to make your own squad and verse other players, this features in game purchases and loot boxes.
The game is rated for ages 3 and up and while the content in general is suitable for all ages care needs to be taken especially if playing online. The average age of an online gamer is around 36 years of age so don’t always expect your child to be playing with children their own age. Another thing to watch out for is in game purchases as it is possible to spend lots of money very quickly. Make sure your consoles are set up with parental controls to prevent unwanted purchases being made.
Red Dead Redemption 2
PEGI Rating - 18
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game made by Rockstar Games, who also make the popular, but not suitable for children, Grand Theft Auto series. Set in Americas Wild West in 1899, you play as outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of a notorious gang of killers and thieves. While not as controversial as the GTA series this game still features a great deal of violence, bad language and adult themes throughout. There is also an online mode to this game, where you can build up your own character, create your own gang and complete various missions and activities.
The Red Dead Redemption series is well known for its use of western stereotypes, this includes gun play and violence as well as drinking, smoking and gambling. All of these are common within the game. The usual risks come with playing games online, games can host 32 players at once, most will be adults. Again this game is definitely not suitable at all for primary aged children.
PEGi Rating - 7
Roblox is a free to play game, available on computers, tablets/phones and games consoles. It hosts several user made games from several genres. The games may have occasional violence, but most is cartoonish and suitable for children, however it is best to check and monitor what your child is playing. Accounts can be made under two settings, under 13 and over 13 years old. Having an under 13's account restricts content and chat features.
On the surface Roblox is suitable for young people. The content of the games is mostly appropriate for children, however there may be some that are not. The concerns that we have is not with the game itself, but how others use it. Text chat does get filtered for bad language, but wont be able to stop nasty messages or code for swearwords.
From speaking to several young people about Roblox, we know that scams are a big issue. Some games have the ability to trade, this has lead to trades of unbalanced values or people asking to share items and not returning items. some games within Roblox can be quite challenging. One young person hat we spoke to said that another player had offered to help her get past a level she was stuck on, so she game them her password. She never got her account back. It is important to remind your children/young people never to trust strangers that they meet online.