In modern-day America, most of today’s consumers are living in a digitally dominated world. So it should come as no big surprise, especially to parents of tweens and teens, that many of today’s kids are regularly finding fun and fraternization via an internet connection.
And while a majority of parents might have heard the names of popular online games such as Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Among Us, they might not know exactly what these kid-favorite titles are all about. For parents with concerns about whether these games are age-appropriate (or who might have other security-related concerns about their children playing these games online), here is a high-level rundown of today’s four most popular online games among pre-teens and teenagers:
- Fortnite: Fortnite is a free online game in which the main mode of play sees players battle one another in an effort to be the last participant standing. Up to 100 online players can participate in a single ongoing game at once and the game boasts an estimated 125 million total players worldwide.
In Battle Royale mode, the game’s most popular option, each player begins by skydiving onto a small, colorful island where all the fighting takes place. Players in this third-person shooter game are initially equipped with only a pickaxe, and upon landing on the island must scavenge to find additional weapons. These can include assault weapons, shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, crossbows and explosives with additional resources such as life-preserving medical kits also available to be found. The ultimate goal of the game is to weather the onslaught of attacks from other players to be the last surviving player. Common Sense Media, a website that provides family-focused reviews of books, games, TV shows, movies and other media, suggests that children be 13 or older to play the game, which it gives a 3 out of 5 rating for violence. Also of note, the game allows for voice and on-screen text chat to be enabled, potentially exposing players to the unfiltered comments of strangers participating the game.
- Roblox: An online gaming platform that allows users to create their own games and share them with others, Roblox is touted by its creators as an “imagination platform.” It is hugely popular with reports indicating that more than half of U.S. kids age 16 and under played Roblox’s games in 2020.
Because the games are built by users and, as of early 2021, more than 20 million had already been published, the games themselves vary widely in their content and missions. Many of the most popular games, though, are single- or multi-player simulators that allow participants to role-play in various scenarios with examples including visiting a restaurant or going to school.
Common Sense Media recommends that children be at least 13 years old to play Roblox, giving the platform a 4 out of 5 ratingor both violence and consumerism. The site also suggests that parents turn on account and game-choice restrictions for younger players, and in particular warns that restricting the platform’s chat and messaging functionalities (which already work to remove inappropriate content) is an especially good idea for younger kids.
- Minecraft: Known as a “sandbox” game that supports and encourages high levels of player creativity and imagination, Minecraft is a multiplayer building game that allows participants to create and explore virtual 3D worlds. Known for its blocky graphics and virtually infinite play landscape, it is the top-selling video game of all time with more than 200 million copies sold.
During gameplay, players can explore the game environment’s vast virtual landscape and along the way discover a range of helpful items, including the raw materials needed to build tools and structures. Depending on the chosen game mode, whose possibilities include survival mode, creative mode and adventure mode, players could find themselves fighting roaming monsters, building elaborate structures, modifying the landscape, and either cooperating with or competing against other online players.
Noting that the game fosters players’ creativity, Common Sense Media recommends that kids be a minimum age of 8 to play Minecraft and it gives the game a 5 out of 5 rating for both educational value and consumerism.
- Among Us — A free multiplayer murder-mystery game that is easy to learn, free to own and available for play on mobile devices, Among Us gained widespread popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as a fun way to remotely connect with friends and family members. Attesting to its popularity, the game boasts more than 60 million daily users and has racked up over 100 million mobile downloads.
Set in a digital environment with an outer-space theme, the game sees players assigned the role of either Crewmate or Impostor when the game begins. The ultimate goal of the Crewmates in each game is to, while completing a set of assigned tasks focused on maintaining and repairing their spaceship, identify and eliminate the game’s Impostors. The Impostors, on the other hand, seek to secretly sabotage the crew’s mission and kill the Crewmates before they complete their assigned tasks. From the start of the game, the Impostors are aware of their assigned role, while the Crewmates must deduce who the Impostors are via a set of clues that include surveillance video and player-movement logs, then collectively vote the Impostors off the ship.
Common Sense Media suggests that Among Us players be at least10 years old and gives the game a 3 out of 5 rating for violence, largely due to the short but sometimes-gory kill scenes. The site gives the game a 2 out of 5 rating for positive messages.
Looking for a way to take more control of your kids’ on-screen time? When parents subscribe to FTC’s Premium Wi-Fi, they can gain a range of added controls with the associated ExperienceIQ Enhanced Parental Controls offering. Among its many benefits, ExperienceIQ can help parents manage the usage hours for connected devices in the home, set up profiles for limiting certain internet access, configure time limits for each profile, set up content filters and get usage reporting by day, week and month. Visit ftc.net to learn more!