A new study from WebPurify shows that gamers turned parents are less concerned with the content of games compared to the risks posed by other players and user-generated content. UGC (44%), inappropriate interactions in multiplayer games (41%) and interactions with strangers (40%) were ranked as top concerns.
The study surveyed 1,008 U.S. gamers who are parents to kids that also play video games. As a result, the surveyed parents are familiar with risks to young gamers. Additionally, it highlights how games have evolved across generations.
“Video games as a medium have evolved so drastically from what I remember playing when I was a kid, games like Duck Hunt. Today’s games are more realistic, more engaging and more interactive between players – all aspects that make them more compelling but also present avenues for misuse,” said Joshua Buxbaum, director of client services at WebPurify. “This new data critically sets the record straight on long-held speculations about the impacts of today’s games on children: it’s not the game content doing the most harm, it’s the players themselves and the interactions in-game that often go unchecked. It’s clear that game developers must pay closer attention to moderating user-generated content in upcoming games, to win over both young players and their parents.”
According to the study the majority of parents have encountered UGC that is extremely offensive. Nearly 75% of gamer parents have seen obviously inappropriate usernames. Two thirds have seen unchecked bullying of another player. Hate speech is also a major concern. Over 60% of parents have seen offensive language around sexual orientation, racism and gender discrimination.
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Perhaps more dangerously, 58% of parents have also seen predatory behavior from other players such as unwanted sexual advances. Similarly, 57% reported seeing solicitation or promotion of criminal activity within gameplay or in-game chat.
Generational divide between gamer parents and kids
Gamer parents do see the benefits to their kids playing games. The majority of parents believe games enhance spatial reasoning skills and that games are an effective tool to expose children to difficult adult themes.
However, gamer parents see today’s games are more intense than those they played as kids. More than six in ten parents believe games carry more risk than games of their youth. Moreover, 65% are nostalgic for these simpler titles. The majority of parents (53%) say that the variety of options is partially to blame as it encourages kids to seek out ones with the most shock value.
Notably, 62% of parents say it is the gaming console’s responsibility to give parents the tools they need to restrict content. While age ratings are valuable, its not clear how effective ratings are. Nearly 70% have seen children playing games rated as adults-only. Two-thirds of parents wish consoles made it easier to restrict content.
Ultimately, parents feel like they have less control over content kids are exposed to for a variety of reasons. Four in ten parents say remote access to games makes it harder to supervise access to content. As they wait for better moderation, 47% of parents say they would prefer that their kids do not play any multiplayer content.
Taking matters into their own hands
In the meantime, parents are limiting access to games to ensure the safety of their own kids. Some of these restrictions include limiting play time (42%), introducing kids to older games they played (40%) and limiting their own playtime to set a good example (36%).
Notably, only 31% of parents planned to set stricter parental controls on gaming consoles. This aligns with the 45% of parents who are skeptical that consoles’ parental controls are effective.
If moderation was more comprehensive, parents are open to being more lenient. Over a third of parents would let kids play alone or interact in VR spaces by themselves if this were the case.
“Gamer parents are some of the video game industry’s biggest champions,” said Alexandra Popken, VP of trust & safety at WebPurify. “Maintaining their trust and keeping users safe is crucial to growth and quieting critics. Users aren’t asking for less violent or less realistic games, they’re looking for more control over preferences and safer communities, especially for younger players, through moderation.”
The full study is available here.
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