Kaapo Collan, 11, browsed the shelves of Gamestop in the shopping centre Kamppi in central Helsinki. He is allowed to play video games one hour a day, except on Sundays, when no gaming is allowed.Finnish parents are widely either unaware of or neglect the age limits of video games when buying games for their children. Although roughly half of parents said in a recent survey that they abide by the limits and two in five that their children abide by them, only one in three viewed that the limits are absolute and are to be adhered to according to the law.

Commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), 1,001 parents and guardians were interviewed for the survey.

Overall, the survey shows that Finns are less aware of the age limits of video games than the limits of films and television programmes and consider them less important. While over 80 per cent said that they take into consideration the age limits of films before buying, only 60 per cent do so when buying video games.

“Parents have no personal experience from video games. Many still regard digital games as a part of the children's world, similarly to board games,” estimates Tommi Tossavainen, a planning officer at KAVI.

On Sunday, 11-year-old Kaapo Collan browsed the shelves of the video game shop Gamestop with his mother, Piia Collan, in the Kamppi shopping centre in Helsinki. In particular, Kaapo enjoys games with action and adventure. “It has to have a good storyline, not only fighting,” he explains.

His mother, who views that in some cases the age limits have been set excessively high, allows him to play some video games deemed suitable for ages 16 and older. According to her, rather than abiding by the limits categorically, parents should learn more about video games and rely on their own consideration.

She supervises the video gaming of her son carefully and looks up every game he wants in advance on the Internet. “If I consider the game a borderline case, I say that you cannot not play it alone, without your mother.”

Games containing sex, torture or excessive violence, in turn, are firmly on her blacklist. Kaapo is not allowed to play games deemed suitable for ages 18 and older, although many of his friends are.

Researcher Annika Suoninen views that the attitudes of parents have changed notably in recent years. “A few years ago, video games induced a moral panic. People unfamiliar with video games condemned all gaming. It became so excessive that it resulted in a counter-reaction.”

Marjo Valtavaara, Minna Nalbantoglu – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Kimmo Räisänen