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Children using online games – top tips

The Office of Fair Trading has these tips to help you make sure your children use online games safely and don’t spend your money unexpectedly.

Check your settings

Before handing over your device to your child, double-check the payment option settings.  If you enter your password to authorise a single payment, you could be opening a payment ‘window’ in which your password won’t be needed for any further payments.  One option to stop anyone else making purchases on your device without your informed consent is to change that setting to require your password for every purchase. And make sure you don’t share your password with anyone in case they inadvertently make a purchase.

Read the game description

Before you download a game for your child or allow them to create an account, read all the information to check you’re happy for your child to play the game. The description of the game in an app store or on the game’s own website, should tell you important information about the game, such as:

  • whether it’s possible to make purchases in the game
  • what the main characteristics are of the game.

Check whether the game contains a social element

Many games allow players to connect with each other, either through the game or via social media platforms. If a game provides that facility, it should be clear to you from its up-front description. Considering the age of your child, think about whether you want them to be contactable by people who they might not know and whether there are any restrictions or safety features in the game that should stop that from happening.

Play the game yourself

The best way for you to understand what your child will see when playing the game is for you to have a go first. That way, you can check whether you think the game’s content will be suitable for your child, and make sure there is nothing that will mislead or place undue pressure on them to make a purchase. Ask your child about the games they play and whether there is anything in them that they’re unhappy about. Be aware that game content could change via updates that you might not have seen, so check regularly that you are still happy the game is suitable for your child.

Check your bills

If you discover money has been taken from your account without your knowledge or consent, get in touch with the relevant platform operator or game provider first. That will give them the opportunity to investigate what happened and put right any problem attributable to them. If you’re not satisfied by their answer, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline for further information and advice.

The Office of Fair Trading, and from April 2014 the Competitions and Markets Authority, will have access to information about complaints made to Citizens Advice and may use that information when deciding whether to take enforcement action.

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