Fifa, Fortnite, and Pokémon GO – these are just a few of the popular games that children, young people and adults play on phones, Xboxes, and PlayStations. While many of us might play these for enjoyment, we share the growing concern of many that ‘Loot Boxes’ within these games are a bad idea for younger people.
What is a Loot Box?
A loot box allows players to spend real money to buy a mystery pack that unlocks special characters or other advantages within a game. Crucially, you don’t know what you’ll get until you open the virtual box when you spend the money, which means it is seen by many as a form of gambling.
Why is this controversial?
Loot boxes can be purchased for as little as £1 at a time but there are examples of children and younger people that have spent thousands of pounds before parents have noticed, with devastating consequences for family finances.
Loot Boxes can also increase the risk of younger people developing gambling-type habits and may be linked to problem gambling as they become adults. The Royal Society of Public Health have estimated that nine in 10 young people played games that contain loot boxes and four in 10 had paid money to open one.
How do I protect my family?
If your child is playing games online, there’s every chance they may be considering using, or already have used, Loot Boxes in their play. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risks and possible harms that loot boxes can bring:
- Talk as a family about what is and isn’t permitted when playing games, so there are clear expectations for everyone. Join them as they play to see what they’re doing.
- Parents who share their phone or console with a child can password protect their account and prevent them from making unwanted purchases.
- Setup good parental controls and ensure that no credit card is associated with the phone, console or account.
- If your child’s console of choice is an Xbox or PlayStation, consider creating a child account, which will prevent the use of credit cards and purchasing of loot boxes.
Be wary that if your child purchases content such as Loot Boxes with their parents’ credit card on an adult account, parents will usually be denied any refund.
If your child uses an Xbox or PlayStation, remember that you can also set up spending limits, e.g. a maximum of £10 a month. You can also set requirements for parental approval on every purchase on devices like the Nintendo Switch. If you want to learn more about how you can control game use by your children and loved ones, you can find out more: