Among Us has been a hot topic in my parent presentations at schools over the last few weeks. Parents are asking why the kids are so obsessed with this game, about age appropriateness, language controls and how they can help their kids to navigate the game safely.
Among Us, like most online games, has good and bad reviews and because of the public multiplayer function there is opportunity for players to behave inappropriately. Let me take you through the details of the game, potential risks and how we may be able to combat them without banning children from a wildly popular and fun game.
What is Among Us?
Among Us is an animated multiplayer game of survival where players try to protect their spaceship together with the aim to return to civilization. Each game has a maximum of 10 players who are randomly assigned the role of crewmate or imposter. The Crewmate’s objective is to complete tasks, report dead crewmates and correctly identify and eject Imposters. The Imposters objective is to sabotage the tasks, cause confusion and kill off the crew to win the game. The suggested age by the developer is children over age 9 however the public chat functionality within the game has the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) suggesting parental guidance and supervision up to age 14.
The game is extremely popular with tweens and teens for its social interaction and requirement for tactical ability. To be successful the game requires a lot of teamwork and interaction with other players to protect each other from the Imposter/s.
Breaking the game down to its individual features you have several options to maximise your gaming experience. The game has several features including:
Personal customisation where players can host their own customised game with chosen theme, players and this feature can alter the number of imposters from the standard 1 to 3.
The host can set the game to public or private setting. Public games are open to the first 10 players who select the specific game within the public lobby. In a public game your child will be interacting with strangers. In a private game the only access is a private link sent to players by the host. In both options the host has the ability to boot/kick players out prior to the start of the game but will need to work with the crewmates to vote them out if they want to boot/kick during game play
In-app purchases are available to personalise players avatars with accessories. They are relatively cheap but provide no advantage in the game.
Advertisements not unlike the free version of YouTube an ad is placed at the end of every game before you can start a new one.
Quick chat only is a filter function for players under 13 to minimise the risk of personal identification and location information being shared. Players are only able to select their response from preassigned comments. It doesn’t prevent the player from seeing inappropriate chat from other who don’t have the same filters applied
Censor chat is another filter function for players that censors inappropriate language by default that is easy to enable.
What are the issues/risks?
Some parents may be concerned about the objective of the game being killing and the methods are random however can be gruesome including getting shot with a gun, breaking the crewmate’s neck or being stabbed with a knife. Due to the cartoon animated nature of the game and the characters appearing more alien than human the impact of killing appears to be limited.
Due to the online chat functionality of the game, it can become quite a toxic environment with swearing, sexually explicit chat content, bullying and racism. Players will also use an inappropriate avatar player name which hovers over the player during game.
There is a Censor Chat function to filter out inappropriate language but like all filters they aren’t 100% effective especially when players are clever with the abbreviation of inappropriate words or use slang phrases.
Exposure to strangers
Unless your child is playing the game offline, strangers can and will join public games. Unfortunately, gaming can be a platform for cyber bullying, child grooming and exploitation. Luckily Among Us can be played online but set to private game which means you know the people you are playing with as it is invitation only sent by the host.
What can we do?
Online gaming can be a lot of fun but with all online activity you need to manage the associated risks. To ensure a fun and safe Among Us experience for your child do your research – It is always good practice to visit https://www.commonsensemedia.org to research what parents and children think of the rating of the game, general gameplay and any issues identified.
The general consensus about Among Us from parents, teachers and students alike is:
- Play offline or keep your children out of the public lobby. Stick to the private lobby where they can play the game with their friends.
- Set your child’s account to Quick Chat only and enable to Censor Chat function
- Join the Parent Portal where you can monitor your child’s gameplay.
- If your child does experience offensive or inappropriate behaviour in another player you can report them by opening a chat, click the Kick menu and select the player you want to report via the report button.