What should parents know about Steam?

Steam is a place to buy, play, discuss, and learn about games on the internet. It works differently from other websites in that it requires you to download the Steam "engine" to run the games. Once you install the engine and create an account, you can play free games, chat with other users, play multiplayer, join forums, learn about new games, play demos, and even create games for others in the site's Workshop section -- all for free. Most popular games require an additional download -- and they often cost money.

While sites such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming are popular places to watch others play games, Steam is mainly about playing your favorite games against others, including friends you know from real life. Kids who have Steam accounts regularly exchange Steam "handles" so they can meet up online. Here's more you need to know about Steam:

Steam is a social gaming network. Game networks are what gamers hook into to play. There are many game networks, but Steam is popular because it supports different devices and platforms and offers a large collection. Some game networks -- for example, Sony's PlayStation network -- will only run its own games (or a very limited number of non-Sony games).

Steam members are generally civil. Valve, Steam's owner, patrols its site for negative behavior and moderates games.

There are plenty of mature games, but also parental controls. Steam used to have a reputation as one of the tamer gaming networks. While it offers its share of kid-friendly titles, it also offers violent games. Once you're a member, you can download anything you want (though most games cost money). Steam offers parental controls called Steam Family View to limit what kids can download. (Learn more about Steam Family View.)

Steam offers popular sales. The company tends to time its sales with school holidays -- and the deals are irresistible. If your kid is a gamer, you know it's summer because Steam is having a sale.

Steam can be limiting. If you buy games, such as Call of Duty, from Steam, you can only play them on the Steam network.

Steam lets you "gift" games to others. Friends like to send each other games (mainly so they can play against each other -- and also to be nice).

The Steam Wallet is its ace in the hole. You can add money to your kid's account (called the Steam Wallet) with a credit card, but Steam gift cards (available at retailers such as GameStop and Target) are popular with Steam members. If you use a credit card, you can keep an eye on what your kid downloads.

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Adult written by m3th0s

I have to completely agree with Mark A. and to be honest as I read what Caroline wrote I thought most of what Mark had said as I read it... with a few chuckles as I read... Well done Mark.
Parent written by Caroline P.

My son likes the games BUT there are a TON of cheaters and scammers. Steam claims to have policies to prevent this, but they are useless, and there is NO customer service! There’s a phone number, but no person to help you. He was scammed out of $1,000+ of items. That’s felony level. They do nothing for this! Also, we bought a gift card - didn’t work! No return policy. Seriously, only buy the games and nothing else. Warn you child that they will constantly play cheaters and that they company essentially invites felons to hack accounts and steal any purchasers.
Adult written by Mark A.

Caroline... I just signed up for this platform to be able to answer you. Let me make this very clear: Steam is a game PLATFORM, not the owner, not the developer or in any case related to 99.9% of the games that are sold there (including the marketplaces). Valve is the company you should be angry about (owner of both steam and cs:go) I assume your son is underaged, so first off: he is not even allowed to play CS: GO and it's very irresponsible of you to let him do so. Second: he is trading (which is more "gambling" in cs:go), which you aren't allowed to do as well if you are underaged. Third: there is NO way someone can scam or cheat you over steam (any proven account hack will be resolved in a matter of hours and all the items/money reimbursed). Now I don't know how he lost the money, but scammed out of it means for me that he gave the product and did not receive payment (Which as well is not possible unless he agrees to it) Would you give a product (let's say over eBay or Amazon) to a stranger with the sole promise of being paid? If you never see the money, who is to blame? If he was naive enough to trust in people and they tricked him, then that is a very big life lesson in this that he should (and i hope that you, instead of blaming others for your own mistakes, learn from it too) If you bought a gift-card in a physical shop, then they are responsible for it, and not Steam. Steam itself has a return policy, so please stop spreading misinformation. I am deeply sorry, but the only person to blame is you, and in any case that your son is not underaged, then it's alone his fault. No naivety deserves pity.
Teen, 14 years old written by Nathan steele

Very good. Definitely better than xbox live or that sort of thing. $1500+ in my account, no regrets. People are nicer on forums than most, and games are high-quality. Refunds are painless and very well done. Best place to buy games for pc. They don't have everything (overwatch), but their selection is more than any other service, even console exclusives.
Parent written by Caroline P.

Be very careful. My son was scammed out of over $1,000 of add-ons from his Cs:go account. He is very bright and has done lots of trades. People are now able to go through Steam’s site or to easily replicate it (we’re not sure which) to do this. Customer service didn’t do anything.
Teen, 14 years old written by Denton.denton

I personally LOVE steam. it's owned by Valve which is one of the largest gaming companies in the world and it's incredibly safe. not only do they sell games, but programs, mods, and software, such as Gamemaker Studio, Source Filmmaker, and much more. If you're having trouble, there is a massive community to ask questions on, and even support from steam workers. I've bought over 20 games, 5 programs and software, and countless mods for games. A lot of games and apps are free too, which is awesome. I know putting your information into websites can be weary, but you should not fear Steam. if you are planning to download steam for free, use here: http://store.steampowered.com/