News

08 February 2020

Age and content ratings on apps and games

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What’s the difference between official, app store and PEGI ratings? And what do you actually need to know? We demystify age and content ratings for you.

What are age ratings?

Age ratings help us understand what online entertainment is age-appropriate for our kids. We’re familiar with age ratings for films but we might not be so used to them when it comes to apps and games. Age ratings will use a number, such as ‘3+’ or ‘7’, to tell us the minimum appropriate age.

What are content ratings?

Content ratings, like age ratings, help us understand what online entertainment is appropriate for our kids. Instead of giving specific ages, it uses categories to help us understand. For example, Amazon Appstore might label something ‘guidance suggested’ or ‘mature’, giving us an idea of whether it's right for a child or not.

Does everybody use the same rating system?

No, different companies can give different ratings. Most apps will give their own ratings, but app stores, like Apple, Google and Amazon, have different ways of rating. There’s also the PEGI age rating system, which is used in a lot of European countries.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help make it clearer by explaining the difference between official age ratings and those given by PEGI, Apple, Google and Amazon.

Different age and content ratings

What are official ratings?

Most social networks, apps and games will give themselves an age or content rating. A lot of apps and games use the PEGI rating system (explained below) but not all of them do.

Where can you find the ratings on official apps and games?

It’s not always easy to find the age or content rating on an app or game. They can usually be found in the ‘terms and conditions’ or ‘terms of use’. Often this information will be in the settings section of the app or game.  

What should parents be aware of? 

Some apps will ask users to confirm their age before signing up but often it’s very easy to say yes without there being any checks. Other apps don’t ask for any age confirmation at all. Because of this, we recommend being with your child when they download a new app or play a new game. Take the time to explore it together and decide together whether it’s appropriate.

 

What are PEGI ratings?

PEGI (Pan European Game Information) is a content rating system used in over 35 European countries that provides age recommendations for gaming content, which includes mobile apps. 

How do PEGI rate games?

Before a game is released, game publishers answer a questionnaire about their product and answer questions on the presence of violence, sex, adult language and other audiovisual content that might be considered as unsuitable for different ages. Once PEGI review this, the game publisher can use the relevant age rating icon and content descriptor.

These ratings and descriptions below are taken from the PEGI website:

PEGI 3 The content of games with a PEGI 3 rating is considered suitable for all age groups. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to frighten young children. A very mild form of violence (in a comical context or a childlike setting) is acceptable. No bad language should be heard.
PEGI 7 Game content with scenes or sounds that can possibly frightening to younger children should fall in this category. Very mild forms of violence (implied, non-detailed, or non-realistic violence) are acceptable for a game with a PEGI 7 rating.
PEGI 12 Video games that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy characters or non-realistic violence towards human-like characters would fall in this age category. Sexual innuendo or sexual posturing can be present, while any bad language in this category must be mild. Gambling as it is normally carried out in real life in casinos or gambling halls can also be present (e.g. card games that in real life would be played for money).
PEGI 16 This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. The use of bad language in games with a PEGI 16 rating can be more extreme, while games of chance, and the use of tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs can also be present.
PEGI 18 The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence, apparently motiveless killing, or violence towards defenceless characters. The glamorisation of the use of illegal drugs and explicit sexual activity should also fall into this age category.

What should parents be aware of?

PEGI age ratings don’t consider communication features when assessing a game or app, meaning that a game with a 3+ PEGI rating might allow its users to speak to other players.

Being able to chat with other users can put children at risk of seeing or hearing something that might upset them.

What are Apple App Store ratings?

Apple asks developers (the people who make the app) to rate their apps as follows:

Rated 4+ Contains no objectionable material.
Rated 9+ May contain content mild or infrequent occurrences of cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and infrequent or mild mature, suggestive, or horror-themed content which may not be suitable for children under the age of 9.
Rated 12+ May also contain infrequent mild language, frequent or intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and mild or infrequent mature or suggestive themes, and simulated gambling which may not be suitable for children under the age of 12.
Rated 17+ You must be at least 17 years old to purchase this application. May also contain frequent and intense offensive language; frequent and intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence; and frequent and intense mature, horror, and suggestive themes; plus sexual content, nudity, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which may not be suitable for children under the age of 17.

Where can you find the rating on Apple App Store?

You can find the age rating on the app detail page under the app name and alongside the star rating. If you press on the rating (on a mobile device) you can find more information about why the app has been given that rating.  

What should parents be aware of? 

For apps in the Apple App Store, the age rating is set by the game developer, not Apple. Developers adding apps to the store are warned that if their app is mis-rated customers might be surprised by what they get.

How does Google Play Store rate apps and games?

Ratings on Google Play Store are the responsibility of the app developers and, in the UK, Pan-European Game Information (PEGI).

PEGI age ratings are used in throughout most of Europe, in more than 35 countries to give a minimum age to entertainment content, such as games and mobile apps.

Check out our information and advice on PEGI age ratings above.

Where can you find the rating on Google Play Store?

You can find content ratings for apps and games under the app title on the app detail page. You can tap “read more” to learn about the app’s interactive features, such as location settings and whether it lets users interact with each other.

What should parents be aware of?

There are apps in the Google Play Store that haven’t been rated. If your child wants to use the app, we recommend you explore it beforehand. If you think it’s appropriate, take the time to discover the different features with your child. But as a general rule, quality developers will always give their apps a rating.

We’d also recommend reading the Parent Guide to Google Play. You can also set up parental controls so your child will only see apps with a particular age rating.

How does Amazon Appstore rate apps and games?

Ratings on Amazon Appstore are given by the app developers, not Amazon.

Apps are given one of four ratings. The information below is taken from Amazon’s website:

All ages Based on information provided by the developer, the content of this application is appropriate for all users and contains no objectionable content.
Guidance Suggested Based on information provided by the developer, the content of this application has material that is appropriate for most users. The app may include account creation, location detection, user-generated content, advertisements, infrequent or mild references to violence, profanity or crude themes, or other content not suitable for all ages.
Mature Based on information provided by the developer, the content of this application has material that is only appropriate for mature users. The app may include account creation, location detection, user generated content, advertisements, explicit references to or images of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, graphic violence, profanity, or crude humor, mild sexual and suggestive themes, nudity within medical, informational, or artistic contexts, simulated gambling, or other content only suitable for mature audiences.
Adult Based on information provided by the developer, the content of this application has material that is only appropriate for adults. The app may include account creation, location detection, user-generated content, advertisements, explicit references to or images of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, graphic violence, profanity or crude humour, sexual and suggestive themes, nudity, simulated gambling or other content only suitable for adult audiences.

Where can you find the rating on Amazon Appstore?

You can find content ratings for apps and games on the individual app pages within the ‘product features’ section. 

What should parents be aware of?

For apps in the Amazon Appstore, the age rating is set by the game developer, not Amazon.

If you're unsure about an app or game, download and explore it yourself. If you think it's ok for your child, take the time to use or play it together. Make sure your child knows how to do things like report and block and remind them to talk to you if they see anything worrying or upsetting. 

Lots of places online will give age and content ratings to different apps and games, not just places like Apple, Google and Amazon. This can feel confusing at times.

Try to find out how they rate and decide whether you think their system is thorough and accurate.

If you’re unsure, download the app or play the game before your child. Then explore it again together to discover the features and agree some rules.

Our tips and advice

Explore apps and games together

 

Just because an app or game has an age rating, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for your child. Each child is different and you know better than anyone whether it’s right for your child.

 

We recommend exploring apps and games together. This is a great way to involve your child in the decision-making process.

 

Be positive about what you see, but also be open about your concerns. Ask them what they think is appropriate and what worries them. If you decide it’s not appropriate, then make sure you explain your reasons why (and be prepared for an unhappy child).

 

You might decide it’s ok for your child to use. If so, agree a time when you’ll next discuss the app or game. 

Create a family agreement

 

You might be unsure whether an app or game is right for your child. Agreeing what you and your child do online is a great way to start talking about how to stay safe.

 

We’ve created the family agreement template for you and your child to use so you can decide together what’s good to do online and what you should look out for. Once you’re both happy, why not stick it on the fridge as a reminder? Come back to it regularly to see if it’s still working.

 

Know how to report and block

 

Even if you decide an app is appropriate for your child, there’s always the chance they’ll come across something negative or upsetting.

 

When you’re exploring the app or game together, take time to find out what reporting or blocking features there are. Show your child how to use them and talk about situations where they might need to.

Keep the conversation going

 

To help stay safe online, it’s important to have regular conversations with your child about what they’re doing online. But it doesn’t always have to be about the risks.

 

Ask your child what they like about particular apps, sites and games. You can also share what you do online.

 

Remind them that they can talk to you about anything they’ve seen. If they don’t want to talk to you, tell them they can talk to an adult they trust, like a teacher. Or they can talk to one of our trained Childline counsellors about anything.

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