Microsoft has announced the results of its second annual Play Smart, Play Safe' study and it appears that the majority of parents believe that gaming is a force for good.

Microsoft's Play Smart, Play Safe study brings an encouraging positive to gaming, finding that 61 per cent of parents view computer games as a 'great social experience', just over half (52 per cent) feel that they bring the family closer together and 80 per cent see gaming as vital component in modern entertainment.

The Xbox manufacturer notes that parents appear to be getting the message about parental controls on consoles – with 73 per cent aware that they can lock adult content and games from being played without their say-so, a rise of 13 per cent.

But the most cheering statistic is that 94 per cent of UK parents acknowledge that it is their responsibility to check the age ratings on games.

Online fears

However, 42 per cent of parents are concerned about children engaging with people older than them in online gaming – although 95 per cent of kids (perhaps unsurprisingly) feel safe when playing games and have not encountered anything frightening or worrying.

Neil Thompson, Senior Regional Director UK & Ireland, MicrosoftEntertainment & Devices Division, comments: "Microsoft is committed to finding tools and creative resources to educate and engage both parents and children on their interactive entertainment experiences on both Xbox 360 and Windows Vista.

"While we are pleased there is a high level of awareness of Microsoft's parental controls, including the Family Timer which can limit the amount of time kids spend gaming, and video game age ratings such as the Pan-European Game Information system known as PEGI and PEGI Online, we need to make it easier for parents to adopt and use these tools.

"To address this need, through parents' preferred information sharing method, we have created the website www.xbox.com/playsmartplaysafe where people can find information about our parental control tools and how to set them up at home."

PEGI encouraged

Simon Little, Managing Director, Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), adds: "We are very encouraged to see that so many parents are using the PEGI age rating system.

"The benefit of this pan-European system is that you can be sure that the same standards apply whether you child is playing at a friend's house down the road, or with a gamer online in another country.

"The ongoing success of the PEGI system relies on the continuing collaboration between industry, national associations, and companies such as Microsoft who can bring this message to the consumer."