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Managing screens while learning from home
Among Us is a multiplayer online game that appeals to adults and kids alike. The game is a good time but with features like unmoderated chat and the ability to play with strangers, parents definitely need to do their research before allowing their child to play.
Written by Cyber Expert:
Among Us is a popular multiplayer strategy game with a ‘whodunit’ plot. The game can be played on Windows PC or via the app which is available on Android and iOS devices. Most children playing the game are using the free to play app on their iPad or mobile phone.
The Windows PC version of the game is for purchase but the app is free to download. Advertisements are shown in the game app and there are opportunities to make in-game purchases. You can opt to pay a fee in order to remove advertisements. Items for purchase range in price, with most falling within the realm of $3-5. Do not link your credit card or payment details to your child’s game (this of course is recommended for all games)!
The game is set on a wrecked spacecraft, with the object of the game being to work in teams to make repairs to the craft. The game provides players with a series of tasks that they must complete in order to do this. But there’s a twist... one or more of the players within a team will be allocated the role of alien Imposter. The Imposter’s job is to sabotage the repairs and covertly kill the crewmates. Throughout the game, players participate in meetings where they communicate with each other to try and determine who the Imposter is. During these meetings, players can vote on the suspected Imposter and the player with the most votes will be ejected from the ship. The Imposter wins by killing all crewmates or successfully sabotaging the spacecraft repairs and the crewmates win by successfully identifying the Imposter or by completing all repair tasks.
Strategy and teamwork are key components in this game. While players can practice completing tasks solo in ‘Freeplay’ mode, this is not the appeal of the game and children will very likely want to play with others. Players can be matched with teams via their local WiFi (i.e. play with others on the same WiFi network as them) or online. When playing online, players can choose to:
Host a game: The host of the game has the ability to make the game private or public. If the game is private, then the only other players who can enter the game are those that have the join code provided by the host. If the game is set up as public, strangers can discover and enter the game.
Join a public game: Players joining a public game will be presented with a list of games that they can choose to enter. The other players in these games will be strangers.
Join a private game: Players can join private games hosted (hopefully) by one of their friends if they have the game join code.
Players can only chat through the game when a ‘team meeting’ is taking place. Team meetings are held regularly throughout a game to scheme and discuss the identity of the Imposter. During team meetings, communication amongst all players in the game takes place via a group text chat.
Whilst Among Us doesn’t offer voice chat during the game, players will often use a separate chat platform such as Discord to communicate verbally with others while playing.
Children have the ability to join games with strangers and communicate with them through the in-game chat. Whilst giving your child boundaries around who they are allowed to play with, showing them how to set up private games, and supervising offers some protection, you cannot turn off the ability to join public games all together, meaning that none of these precautions are fool-proof.
The in-game chat is unmoderated, meaning that children can very easily be exposed to inappropriate or aggressive language. There is a chat filter available within the game but it is not password protected, so if parents turn it on, children can very easily turn it back off.
Players have been known to set inappropriate or derogatory usernames. These usernames are visible to all players within a game.
This is not a major concern as graphics are cartoonish and visuals of blood and gore are minimal, however, kill methods are fairly violent and could be frightening for younger users.
As with many online games, this game is characterized by short play sessions and prompts to ‘play again’. Getting kids off the game and managing screen-time may be difficult for some.
The lack of in-game parental control tools and the ability to connect with and talk to strangers does leave a lot to be desired when it comes to the safety of this game. A few things that parents can do to improve safety for children playing include:
Turning on the chat filter and doing regular check-ins to ensure it remains turned on. To turn on the chat filter: Open the app, click the settings toggle at the bottom of the screen, and tap the censor chat button so that it reads ‘Censor Chat: On’.
Give your child boundaries around who they are allowed to play with and use the ‘Local’ and ‘Private’ game options to enforce these boundaries. This means letting your child know that they are not allowed to play games that are ‘Public’. Where possible, have your child host the game so that they have the ability to kick players out in the event that a stranger joins or someone is acting inappropriately.
Provide heavy supervision- particularly for young players. The ability to quickly and easily turn off the chat filter or slip from a private game to a public one means that parents will need to provide heavy supervision while children are playing this game. Ensure children are in public areas when playing at home (not in bedrooms) and check in regularly. Some parents find that projecting their child’s screen to the TV allows them to keep a close eye on what is happening.