If you ask a young person what they want to do as a job in the future, the reply is probably going to involve gaming! Online gaming is incredibly popular with children and young people. Research conducted by OFCOM states that gaming is one of the top activities enjoyed by 5-16 year olds online, with many of them gaming via mobile devices, tablets, PC and gaming consoles.
While gaming is lots of fun, it's important to know what can do to keep your child safe when gaming online.
It’s important to introduce set rules on what your child can play, when they play and how long they play for. Encourage them to maintain a healthy balance between gaming and other activities.
Look for the PEGI ratings
PEGI ratings can be used as a guide to help parents and carers decide whether a game is appropriate. PEGI age rating certificates appear on front and back of game packaging or will be visible in the games description online. The age ratings are- 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. You know your child best and it is important that regardless of the ratings you familiarise yourself with the game and decide whether it is right for your child.
Encourage them to play in shared spaces
If you can, keep consoles and computers in shared family spaces so you can see the game play for yourself and support your child if needed.
Make it a routine to regularly review the privacy settings on your child’s account. Encourage them to keep their play private where possible or limit their play to gaming with other children that they know, rather than playing on public platforms. It’s important that your child is alert to people asking personal questions to try and find out more about them. It’s important that they keep their information private, such as where they live and go to school, and never reply to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Many online games allow children to communicate with anyone they play with online. This means that others can communicate with your child and try to find out more about them, and they may see or hear hateful language and bullying. Although some gaming sites will have filters, it is amazing how clever people can be with getting around these, and it is likely your child will be exposed to inappropriate content at some point. It’s important that your child feels confident they can share with you anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or worried, and that you keep an eye on their use of online chat, who they are talking to, and the type of language being used.
Know how to report hurtful comments
Most gaming sites will have the option of reporting players who are being hurtful, inappropriate or abusive. Encourage your child to know where to report in-game hurtful comments so they can take prompt action if they feel concerned. Remind them that they can leave a game at any time and it’s important to take a break if something has made them angry or upset.
Stay switched on
If you see a change in your child’s behaviour after playing online (e.g. seeming frustrated, anxious, or acting as if they need to get something off their chest), it may suggest they are being targeted with hurtful messages or potentially experienced or seen something that has upset them.
Encourage your child to talk about their experiences of gaming online. You’ll learn a lot, and the frequent conversations will make it easier for your child to open up about things that happen online. If they share something with you that has upset them, stay calm and work out a solution together. You may be tempted to ban them from the game but if they think this is how you will respond they may be less likely to ask for help in the future.
This can be tricky as new game trends change very quickly. Talk to your child about what they are currently playing. Organisations like, Common Sense Media and Internet Matters.org can support with reviews of the latest mobile and console games.