If you have kids who like to play video games, then you’ve probably heard of Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF). This popular series of games thrills and delights kids with its jump-scares and creepy animatronic characters. But is Five Nights at Freddy’s safe for kids?
My eldest son, 6, is absolutely obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s. I wrote previously how much he loves Huggy Wuggy and Poppy Playtime – well, this is the new obsession. And the obsession goes way beyond the game play too – which I’m actually really pleased about. He has the character book, stickers, and endlessly draws his favourite FNAF characters.
When my son first became interested in Five Night’s at Freddy’s through Minecraft, Roblox, and YouTube, I admittedly felt overwhelmed by the meaning of the game and all its characters. Five Nights at Freddy’s has been around for almost 10 years. The game, its characters, and the game “lore” have evolved quite a bit since the initial release of the game. So if you and your child are new to it, like we were, then you’ve come to the right place!
Naturally, we wanted to make sure that Jonah would be safe were he to play Five Night’s at Freddy’s. So we installed it on his dad’s phone so we could play it ourselves before letting Jonah play it.
And hopefully I can answer all your questions about FNAF here and you can decide whether or not Five Nights at Freddy’s is appropriate and safe for your child.
So, what on earth is Five Nights at Freddy’s?
What is Five Nights at Freddy’s?
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a series of games where the player must survive against animatronic characters based in a fictional pizza restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
There are nine games in the series. The first game, Five Nights at Freddy’s, was released in 2014, and the latest, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, in 2021.
Freddy Fazbear is the cute but somewhat creepy mascot of the restaurants. The game centres on Freddy and his comrades Bonnie, Chica, and Foxy. But there are literally hundreds of characters, many only taking on slight variations of the original. We’ll look at some later on in the article.
As the player, kids take on the role of the night-guard – who must survive against the animatronic characters who stalk the locations. The games feature security cameras, lights, voice recordings, mini-games, and Easter eggs, which all add to its appeal.
Believe it or not, the game’s inventor, Scott Cawthon, originally developed Christian-oriented games!
What platforms does it come on?
It’s a game for PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, Oculus Quest, and Google Stadia (source: Wikipedia), and you can also play FNAF themed games as part of the very popular Roblox or Minecraft.
What ages is FNAF suitable for?
The age rating of Five Nights at Freddy’s is 12+. This rating comes from Video Standard Rating Board and it’s noted “because it features moderate violence to fantasy characters and scenes of moderate horror that younger players may find disturbing.”
What’s the gameplay like?
Gameplay is all about jump-scares and monitoring the activity of the animatronic characters. As the night-guard, you sit in a tiny office and watch the monitors carefully as they show scenes from around the pizzeria.
The robots, who are here to please people by day while they eat pizza and have fun, have become unpredictable at night. And for some reason it’s cheaper to hire a security guard than to decommission the robots? Go figure – but without this premise, there would be no game!
Corporate budget cuts means that the electricity can cut out suddenly leaving you in darkness with no security doors. And if Freddy and his pals aren’t where they should be, you must find them and protect yourself.
What’s the backstory?
In my opinion, this is where Five Nights at Freddy’s becomes less suitable for children. The pizzeria is associated with the tragic killing of five children by a man named William Afton.
Unbelievably, the children’s bodies are said to be kept inside the mascots. This rumour led to a loss of reputation for the restaurant and ultimately contributed to its demise. This information is only revealed in FNAF 2, where the story is retold via arcade-style mini-games. William Afton is depicted as a character in the game – Purple Guy. He’s not scary at all because he’s only inside a computer.
However, by FNAF 3, William Afton has taken on a new guise – the eerie-looking Springtrap – an animatronic said to contain the corpse and soul of the aforementioned murderer. Yep, creepy now.
As the story progresses in FNAF 4, more characters and locations are revealed. Following FNAF 4, Sister Location reveals William Afton’s daughter’s soul possessing a smaller animatronic called Circus Baby.
In the fifth instalment of the game, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator, the player takes control of William Afton’s son, Michael.
In the final release, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach, the player controls a boy named Gregory and the game is now set inside a mall. It remains to be seen what game will be revealed next.
Is there any gore, violence, or killing in FNAF?
Not directly visible to the player. It’s kind of implied.
What do parents think about FNAF?
You can read lots of parent opinions and comments about how children react to Five Nights at Freddy’s at the Common Sense Media website.
Is Five Nights at Freddy’s safe for kids?
It depends. In my opinion, the worst aspect of FNAF is how depressing and negative it is when we could be focusing on something positive and fun! But we all go there, don’t we? Watching videos and playing games that lead us to feel a range of emotions. It’s fun to travel to the dark side in a safe situation, every now and again.
Sure, you could fill your kid’s life with sunshine and rainbows, but my kid just doesn’t want that all of the time.
Personally, I don’t particularly like FNAF. I find it a little boring. It’s not my kind of game. But my son loves it! So, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s suitable. My son is often drawn to dark and creepy games and characters. It’s just part of who he is. I’m not going to stop him from playing the games he likes, unless I think it’s not suitable or he finds it distressing, or any aspect of his behaviour changes.
So do I let my son play Five Nights at Freddy’s?
Yes! I’m comfortable letting Jonah play the game, however I don’t like him to play it for more than half an hour as constantly waiting for jump-scares can be stressful.
Despite his initial interest in the game and his obsession with it outside of gameplay, Jonah spends more time playing with FNAF characters through a Roblox “obby” than he does playing actual FNAF.
What are the main concerns to children’s health of FNAF?
Jen Taylor, children’s therapist, makes a good point when discussing the negative outcomes of playing Five Night’s at Freddy’s. She states that “playing 5 Nights at Freddy’s creates a sense of hyper-vigilance due to the need to constantly check for [your] safety”. It’s definitely a sign to watch for. That said, having a child who plays the game and displays none of these outward signs, leads me to question whether or not this is true in every case for every child. All children are different, and all situations are different. Limiting time playing the game is surely key.
From jentaylorplaytherapy.com, here are some traits to watch for-
- Nightmares and sleep problems
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviours
I have to say, these seem to be the worse case scenarios. Who would let their child get to this point by playing the game for extended periods or over multiple sessions without stepping in?
What about YouTube videos of FNAF?
YouTube videos about a game always complicate things. It’s so much harder to control what your kid watches through these videos and there’s definitely way more swearing or violence through videos of Five Nights at Freddy’s then there is in the game. I try to keep my son away from these videos, but it’s hard without locking down YouTube. View at your own discretion!
There’s a Five Nights at Freddy’s movie?
Yes, and it’s arriving Halloween 2023 from Blumhouse (the company behind some well known horror films like Insidious, Paranormal Activity, M3gan, and The Purge).
It stars Matthew Lillard (Scream/Scooby-Doo) and the animatronic characters are being provided by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (Sesame Street/Muppets).
Is it safe for kids? As yet, it’s unrated as it’s still in production, but the answer will almost certainly be no. I can bet my son wants to watch it, though!
Is FNAF suitable for younger siblings?
It’s probably not a good idea to let younger siblings join in on playing this game. My younger children mostly just ignore my son’s games, and he plays them in a separate room.
Final thoughts on Five Nights at Freddy’s safety for kids
If your kid likes dark backstories, jumpy situations, and boundless numbers of creepy characters, this game is absolutely for them – while being mindful of the game’s age rating of 12+.
If your child is pushing you to buy a game for them, and you’re not sure whether or not it’s safe or appropriate, I encourage you to try the game for yourself and do your research online before you make a choice.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is available to buy at Steam for £3.99.
Now it’s over to you! Do you let your kids play FNAF? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, so leave me a comment below.