Children have been playing games since video games were invented. As the gaming industry has grown so has the community around it. There are so many games that are accessible online that it is so easy for children to play them. In 2014, there were 5.9 million children between the age of 8-15 playing online games (IAB UK, 2014). According a major survey, 69% of 6-10 year olds play games in some form or another (UKIE, 2016). So, what do you need to know?
Recent media stories have highlighted the dangers of specific games and content on social media platforms. It is worth reminding ourselves that the legal minimum age to have a facebook, twitter or Instagram account is 13 years old.
What are the risks?
The issue here is not just the violence of some of these games but also the risk comes with the other people playing online. If a child is playing a game with random strangers, they are vulnerable to bad influences. Most online games pull in people from all age ranges. So, you could end up with 10 year olds playing with 20+ year olds. And, sadly, this means children can be at risk of complete strangers taking advantage.
Children are running the risk of being targeted by bullies and subject to inappropriate language because of this. The knock on effect can mean children carrying this behaviour into the real world.
The other major problem with children being online is that they can, unintentionally, share personal information with strangers online.
Safer Internet Day is an annual event across the country’s schools for all ages to focus on a particular area of internet safety – this year’s message of ‘Together For A Better Internet’ saw more than 2100 schools get involved in the conversation of how to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively. The final report can be read here, Safer Internet Day 2019 Press Release.
Parents and teachers alike need to be more aware of this, in order to act. There are a few things you can do to help keep your children safe online. You don’t have to stop them playing games entirely but making them aware of the risks and teaching them how to be safe will be a huge benefit in the long run.
Talk – be open and honest about their online gaming and make sure they are aware of the risks involved.
Teach them about the dangers of revealing private information like email addresses, home address or financial details.
Explain that not everyone online has honourable intentions and people do lie, so they need to be cautious.
Report – Much like with other bullying, teach them to not respond to bullies online but to report it straight away.
Educate yourself on how to report bullies through online gaming so that you can then teach the children.
For parents, monitor the amount of time they spend online and give them a set limit.
Always check certificates – it’s 18 for a reason! Are you confident that you know what content is in a particular game? If you aren’t sure whether you would want your children to play it, research the game first yourself to find out what is involved before making a decision. Never give your child access to your payment details.
Playing online games doesn’t need to be scary when you are aware of what you can do. As with anything, there will always be risks but if you teach children to be safe online the risks can be minimised.