Among Us parents’ guide: what is it and is it safe for your child?
Among Us is one of the most popular games of 2020, with children in particular drawn to its simple gameplay and pick-up-and-play nature.
However concerns have been raised about its unmoderated in-game chat system.
So what do parents need to know about it? Here’s our expert guide.
What is Among Us?
Among Us is a free multiplayer game for smartphones, tablets and Windows PCs (via Steam). It has a PEGI 7 rating.
It launched in June 2018 and stayed largely under the radar, but soared in popularity during lockdown due to its appearance on several high-profile Twitch channels.
Players take the role of either a crewmate or imposter in one of three sci-fi settings: a spaceship, sky base or planetary outpost.
Up to 10 players can join a game, and they’re assigned to one of the roles at random, without anyone else knowing.
The objective for the Crewmates is to complete specific tasks and unmask the Imposters, of which there can be up to three per game. Imposters need to sabotage or kill the Crewmates, without being spotted. Gameplay is super-simple.
The tasks are easy to complete and mostly just involve pressing a few buttons – it’s a world away from the complexity of the average RPG.
The real fun starts when someone suspects another player or discovers a dead body. At this point they can call a meeting, where all of the players (except for any who have been killed) can discuss who they think did the deed.
After a few seconds of debate, they all vote – and if one player gets more votes than the others, they are ejected into space or hurled into a pool of lava.
The game then continues until one side wins – but most bouts last no more than five minutes in total.
What risks are there?
Players can join either local or online games, while online games can be public or private. If your child joins a public online game, they will have no control over who they play with and won’t know who they are talking to.
The voting is all done via unmoderated chat, which means your child could be exposed to inappropriate language. A ‘Censor chat’ feature is available, but it’s not foolproof: gamers can easily get around it by using slang or substituting numbers for letters.
What’s more, the censor feature can be turned off with a single press – there’s no way for parents to prevent their child changing it. A ‘kick’ feature allows other players to eject someone from a game if they are using bad language or behaving inappropriately, but in our experience this is rarely used.
Players can, and do, exchange personal information in chats, particularly in the lobby that they wait in before a game starts. It’s not uncommon to see players asking others how old they are or where they are from, or to share details of their social accounts.
In-app purchases are available to buy within the game. These range in price from £0.89 to £2.79 and can be used to buy new skins or pets who follow the player around. There are also occasional ads, which can be removed with another in-app purchase.
Among Us also features violent graphics when players are killed. This is very cartoony in style, but it may not be suitable for all children.
How can I help my child be safer when playing Among Us?
Given that the chat is unmoderated, it may be safer for children to play local games with other users on the same network, or to set up a private online game and share the access code securely with friends.
Either way, you should talk to them about the importance of protecting their personal information, such as their name, address or other identifiable details.
You could also discuss kind behaviour – both with friends or strangers – and how picking on individuals or bullying can make others feel.
Depending on the device your child uses, you may always want to block them from making in-app purchases without your approval.
What else should I know?
Be aware that the game relies heavily on colour. This is a challenge for colour-blind players, particularly if competitors have not entered distinctive names.
Among Us – the Parent Zone verdict
It’s easy to see why Among Us is such a hit: it’s easy to pick up but hard to put down and packs plenty of fun into its short-lived games. It also promotes teamwork and reasoning as the Crewmates try to unmask the Imposters, while Imposters will enjoy lurking in the shadows and causing mayhem.
Its highly social nature is both a blessing and a curse. Many young people will love chatting with others about who the Imposters might be, but there is always the risk that they could see inappropriate language or share personal information with strangers.
It’s therefore important that you talk to them about these issues and help them to avoid the risks that are present in the game.