PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile: what is it – and is it safe for children?
Battle royale games have seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last few years and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) – the game that arguably kicked off the craze together with Fortnite – is still going strong.
The mobile iteration of the game is free to play and is a massive hit with children and young people, boasting more than 50m daily active users worldwide – but what are the risks involved?
Here’s everything you need to know about PUBG Mobile and advice on how to help your child be safer when playing it.
What is it and how does it work?
PUBG Mobile has a classic battle royale set-up: 100 players are dropped onto an island in teams of four, and have to scavenge resources and eliminate the competition until they’re the last ones standing.
The graphics have been significantly scaled down from the console/PC version, but it’s otherwise mostly unchanged. Whereas Fortnite has more of a cartoonish aesthetic and emphasis on building mechanics, PUBG has gone for a more gritty, realistic look and gunplay is undoubtedly the main focus.
Are there any risks involved?
Playing games online can be very enriching for young people, especially in these times when meeting face-to-face isn’t as easy, but there are certain risks involved.
- Violence: The game is not gory as such, but it revolves around killing other players with a variety of guns, so it has been given a 16+ rating by PEGI. You might want to look up some videos of the game when deciding if you’re comfortable with your child playing PUBG Mobile – or download it yourself and play a couple of rounds. Find out more about PEGI ratings.
- In-game chat: Most of the time, your child will be playing with strangers in their squad and, although this is not harmful in and of itself, difficult situations could arise when a match enters its tense final moments. Teammates can communicate either via voice or text chat and there’s a chance that your child might be exposed to some bad language if the match is going south. In our own experience, some players on PUBG Mobile are fiercely competitive and there’s a chance that an inexperienced player might receive some verbal abuse if they can’t keep up. Players can be muted from the menu on the right side of the screen. Find out more about in-game chat.
- Microtransactions: Since PUBG Mobile is a free-to-play title, it makes its money from microtransactions and subscriptions. These microtransactions don’t affect gameplay at all – they are purely cosmetic and give players access to, for example, ‘skins’ (costumes for their in-game avatar) and emotes. The game markets these paid-for features quite heavily, so children might be tempted to convert real money into Battle Points – or BP – which can be used to buy in-game items.
How can I help my child be safer when playing PUBG Mobile?
It’s important that your child knows how to respond when faced with a difficult situation in an online game.
If they experience something uncomfortable in a PUBG Mobile match – for instance cyberbullying or being sent sexually explicit messages – they can report it at the end of a match.
When the player is on the end-of-match results screen, there’s a small button with a red outline in the bottom-left corner that says ‘Report’. Tap the button, select the squad member responsible and give a brief description of their behaviour.
Remember to also reassure your child that they can talk to you if they have a bad online experience and or have any questions about something they’ve seen or heard in a game.
The most effective way to minimise the risk of your child suffering harm as a result of something they’ve experienced online is to build their digital resilience.
This involves helping them understand when they’re at risk, know how to respond and seek help, learn from their experiences, and recover when things go wrong. Find out more about digital resilience.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile – the Parent Zone verdict:
Although the mobile version of PUBG is a little rough around the edges visually, the game is engaging and relatively easy to get to grips with.
It does a good job of condensing all the features you would expect from a third-person shooter into a mobile experience and we didn’t encounter any technical hiccups while playing it.
Playing PUBG Mobile with a squad of their friends can definitely lead to some memorable gaming moments for young people, but one thing significantly taints the experience. As soon as you boot up the game and in between matches you are bombarded with messages prompting you to buy in-game items. It’s to be expected that a free game will promote its paid features, but the pop-ups are a little too persistent.
Image: Stanisic Vladimir / Adobe Stock