Many kids love online gaming. If your child has a new console, it’s important you help them stay safe when playing online.
- Online gaming can be a fun and social activity for many children
- It’s important to understand what the real risks of gaming online are
- Improve protection for your child when playing online with some simple steps
PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, as well as PC and many smartphone games, have the option to get involved with an online community.
Three-quarters of children aged five to 15 who play games do so online, according to Ofcom research. Fortnite, which has 250 million registered players, is almost exclusively played online.
Whether your child is playing FIFA against friends over Xbox Live or teaming up for the latest Call of Duty free-for-all on the Playstation Network, it’s important they stay safe. As parents, you don’t want to stop them having fun or being involved but there are easy ways you can help keep them safe.
What’s the attraction of online gaming?
Older generations who are unfamiliar with online gaming may wonder what all the fuss is about. But there are many genuine reasons why children can get a lot out of gaming:
- The challenge and immediate rewards give a sense of achievement
- Colourful characters and fantasy worlds encourage their imagination and creativity
- Teamwork is encouraged in co-op games
- It improves their hand-eye coordination and multi-tasking
- Logic and puzzle games encourage critical thinking skills
- Engaging with children from around the world can boost their cultural understanding
The social side is a huge attraction too, with headsets allowing children to talk to their friends as they play games over Xbox Live or the Playstation Network. For kids without siblings to play with, who live far away from their classmates or can’t see their friends on a weekend, playing games online offers the next best thing.
What are the risks of online gaming?Unfortunately, while online gaming may be fun for children and even beneficial, there’s no denying it carries risks too. Many of these can be prevented or controlled, so it’s important to be aware of them.
More than half (57%) of young people surveyed had experienced bullying when playing games online, a report from an anti-bullying charity found .
The use of microphones and in-game messaging creates a more social environment, but it can be misused by players of all ages. Cyber bullying ranges from name-calling to making threats or even hacking accounts. This can be from people they know or strangers.
There are many free games online. However, almost every game played online now includes add-ons to purchase. These include new outfits and weapons for characters that help players get ahead or get currency to spend in the game. Children can end up racking up a big bill - accidentally or deliberately.
People of all ages play games online, which can put children in a vulnerable position if they’re not cautious about who they contact.
Games unsuitable for your child’s age might contain inappropriate content. Along with actual gameplay, many users can modify aspects online that can be upsetting, especially for younger children.
Online games are designed to be challenging, fun and rewarding. The thrill of winning and the test to improve can be addictive. Some children may find it hard to stop playing and end up avoiding other activities to play their games online. This can lead to sleep and health problems if it isn’t addressed.
Protecting children online
Keeping your children safe when playing online isn’t just a priority for parents. Manufacturers and developers realise the value of their younger audience, with the global video games industry generating nearly $135 billion in 2018.
Most are therefore focusing on addressing the risks of online gaming for kids and helping support parents. There are various ways you can help protect your child when playing games online and how you set up the device can have a considerable impact on this:
- Turn on parental controls – All major consoles include parental controls that let you limit your child’s online activities. Activate privacy settings that change the amount of information other players can see. Find out more about parental controls for the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
- Block, mute and report – Work out and show your child how they can block and mute other players if they are making them uncomfortable. Most games allow you to report them to the moderator too, which can see them banned from playing in the future.
- Check content – Age ratings exist for a reason. Check them and the type of content included to decide if a game is appropriate for your child. Read reviews for further information.
- Talk to your kids – Keep the conversation going to pick up on any problems. Let them know why some games are inappropriate and emphasise the importance of taking breaks and monitoring screen time.
- Set spending limits – Check games to see if they include in-game purchases. Most parental controls let you set monthly spending limits for the account.
By following these steps, playing games online can be done in a safe and fun manner whenever your child gets a new console or game.
Head over to our Cyberspace to find out more about how to stay cyber safe.
This article contains links to other sites, and we're not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.
All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.