Clash of Clans: Avoiding Family Clashes


If I were to say “Clash of Clans” to you, and you groaned in response, I would deduce something about you: You are the parent of a gaming son*, and the two of you have had your share of disagreements about screen time.

Clash of Clans is a popular free gaming app for iOS devices. In essence, the game involves building, resourcing, and defending a stronghold. Of course, an enraptured Clanner will tell you it’s “so much more than that!” Namely, troops of rampant Barbarians, Archers, Goblins, Giants…even “Hog Riders”! The amusing little details–the long sigh of an enemy as he dies–make up the soul of the game.

Clash of Clans has been wildly successful—especially for a “free” app. One report said Supercell, the Finnish company behind the game, earns $2.4 million a day (on two games). Since the app itself is free, that means its earnings are generated by in-app purchases. Players can bolster their progress by buying “gems,” a very tempting prospect when a dopamine-drunk brain is pushing the buttons. Elite (adult) players are known to spend $6000 a day to maintain their position on the leader board. Parents around the world have been stung by the in-app-purchase menace, some to the tune of thousands of dollars charged to their credit cards.

Parental Control Issues

The lesson here is take full advantage of the parental controls on your child’s device to turn off in-app purchases. Rather than linking iTunes accounts to a credit card, let your kids use iTunes cards. It will teach them to keep track of expenditures.

Also keep in mind that the game includes live chat. There’s global chat, which allows chat with anyone in your region, and clan chat, which allows chat to the others in your gaming group. Your child can potentially talk to strangers or be exposed to swearing. There are filters for swear words and it is moderated but barely, according to one comment). Troublesome players can be muted, but not un-muted. You cannot report anyone in Clan Chat, so join with caution!

e-Quipped always strives to provide a balanced view, so here’s a brief list of benefits that can result from monitored, limited gaming with a strategy game like Clash of Clans.

The Good News First

  • Enhances strategic thinking and planning
  • Develops patience in working towards a goal
  • Provides experience at collaboration
  • Fosters a sense of belonging or community
  • Learning from mistakes,
  • Recovering from disappointments

Now for the Not-So-Good News:

  • In app purchases are tempting and can lead to pestering (or a big bill if in-app purchases aren’t switched off in parental controls)
  • Addictive structure (bearing in mind, the debate about “computer/gaming addiction” rages on)
  • Global Chat allows contact with strangers; predators have been reported to use the site
  • harassment/bullying  that can emerge at school between students who share a clan, etc
  • Exposure to swearing and nastiness in global chat and clan chat (there is a filter, but it doesn’t appear to be effective)
  • Emotional arousal

The game has come up in my work as a school counsellor, mostly because it sucks kids in so much. Parents sense things are out of control. There have been a couple of friendship problems too. Clash of Clans can lead to a clash of family members if your child is not given parameters for use.  Set limits, monitor behaviour, and insist on balance.

 *A Note on Language…

The use of “son,” “boy,” and other male references is not meant to indicate that only boys game or experience gaming-related issues. Of course, girls are also gamers and play Clash of Clans, and they can develop problematic behaviours around gaming.