Find out how to make sure online gaming is both enjoyable and safe for children.
What is gaming?
Playing games online against other people can be really enjoyable and great fun. You can do it via a mobile phone, a computer or a games console and online games come in every shape and form. There are the ones where you each take a turn - like chess on a mobile phone app - and others where you compete to get your scores as high as you can on a leaderboard. Then there are the 3D virtual worlds where hundreds or thousands of people are simultaneously playing against each other. Online gaming has something for everyone and millions of children and young people across the UK regularly take part. Below are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your online gaming experience.
Things to think about
- When you’re gaming as part of a network this often involves live online chat and you’re playing with real people
- You should be respectful to others in the game and understand the rules and boundaries of the website or community
Things to do
- Keep gaming friends ‘in the game’ - avoid sharing personal information with people you’ve met in games and avoid giving them your social networking profile details or email address. Also, choose a user name that does not reveal any personal information about you
- Use a strong and unique password for all of your online accounts - a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (and if you’ve ever shared your password in the past, change it)
- Learn how to block people you don’t want to be in contact with any more. If you experience any bullying, hacking and racism, save the evidence and report it
- Remember to always log out of a service properly after use, especially on a shared computer
- Experts recommend you take regular 5 minute breaks every 45 minutes to an hour to help your concentration
Additional advice for parents / carers
- Young people can also go online through some gaming devices and online gaming often involves playing against real people
- Use the PEGI games ratings to guide you when buying games for your child or making judgements about the games they are playing. The PEGI system rates video games at various age levels (3, 7, 12, 16 and 18) and is designed to protect children and young teenagers from inappropriate content
- Make sure your children are using games from reputable and legal online providers
- Online gaming can be compulsive for some; be aware of the amount of time spent online and set boundaries around your child’s use
- Games should be played as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle; regular 5 minute breaks should therefore be taken every 45 minutes to an hour
- Use parental controls on games consoles to disable or restrict access to facilities such as voice chat. They can also be used to disable online credit payments or applications that you feel are inappropriate
- You can use online parental controls to restrict or block access to online gaming websites and other content altogether
- Familiarise yourself with the chat programme your child uses. Find out more about its built-in safety functions and how they can be contacted within the service
- Install reputable internet security software on your computers and mobile devices; keep this and operating systems up to date
- Know where to get help if someone is bullying you in a game - talk to CyberMentors and BeatBullying who can provide help and support
- If someone is upsetting you or making you feel uncomfortable, talk to an adult you trust, such as a relative or teacher. If you would prefer to talk to someone in confidence you can contact Childline (0800 1111). If someone has acted inappropriately online towards you, or someone you know, you can report directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). It could be sexual chat, being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or someone asking to meet up.