How to keep your child safe while gaming online
Gaming online has increased in popularity during the pandemic and is now more prevalent than ever in a lot of children’s lives.
Many games are now focused on building an online community and connecting with other players.
This can be a fun way for children to connect with their friends, but it comes with its risks.
This Safer Internet Day we are exploring how you can keep your child safe online, whilst allowing them to enjoy the fun of gaming online with their friends!
What is online gaming?
Online gaming refers to any game that involves or allows users to interact with other players, usually by connecting to the internet. They will usually include a chat room feature, whether it’s public or private.
Online games can be played on laptops, mobile phones, iPads or gaming consoles such as an Xbox, Playstation or Nintendo Switch.
If your device connects to the internet, it can probably be used for online gaming.
You may be familiar with titles such as Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, and Among Us; these all fall under the category of online games.
The risks of online gaming
Without the right guidance, here are some of the main risks to children with online gaming:
- Online grooming cases in the UK reached an all-time high in 2021
- Cyberbullying instances are more common than we might think, with a quarter of headteachers in England saying that they face problems related to cyberbullying every week (BBC News, 2019)
- Screen addiction has become more prevalent, with a 63%
- increase in the UK gaming population since lockdown (The Children’s Society, 2021)
- Exposure to inappropriate content. When your child is online it is hard to monitor exactly what they are looking at (unless you look over their shoulder the entire time) and sadly the things they see online can bother children of all ages.
- Unauthorised in-app purchases can be a consequence of unsupervised screentime, but luckily there are easy fixes to avoid this.
Tips for keeping your child safe online
Parental controls are available on the majority of online games and devices.
Enabling parental controls can give you peace of mind that your child doesn’t have access to chat features or the ability to purchase in-game add ons.
You can also set a time limit so excessive screen time isn’t an issue. Apple and Android devices have access to parental control features.
Check the age-appropriateness of the games that your child is playing.
Age recommendations may differ depending on the platform you check.
For example, Xbox lists Minecraft as PEGI 7, which means it contains very mild forms of violence.
However, Google Play lists Minecraft as ‘suitable for everyone 10+’.
Checking the differing guidelines means you can make an informed decision on what is suitable for your child.
Talk to your child about the do’s and don’t of online gaming.
The strongest protection you can give your child from online dangers is knowledge.
It can be easy to assume that your child already knows not to talk to strangers online, but online predators have become calculating in their approaches.
Often, they will pose as children and adopt the same lingo they use to gain trust.
The more educated you are about the games your child plays, the easier it will be to understand what the risks are.
The benefits to online gaming
Online gaming can be a great way to develop social and communication skills, and enhance motor and cognitive skills.
For younger children, we recommended Azoomee, an award-winning app filled with educational games.
Azoomee games work with or without an internet connection and all their content is age-appropriate.
Your child can send their first message with the safe, parent-verified Azoomee Chat.
Parents also have a PIN-protected Parent Area to manage the account.
Children can play dozens of games including puzzles, brainteasers, classic family and arcade games, all with the peace of mind that there are no third-party ads and no unexpected bills coming their way.
If your child is starting to ask about social media, Popjam is a great introduction to this.
Children can create content for their profile using stickers, photos and drawing tools and can follow people or brands they are interested in.
There are loads of safe games to play, videos to watch and quizzes, puzzles and challenges to take part in.
“PopJam has a team of professional, dedicated moderators who monitor PopJam 24 hours a day, all year round and are active members of the PopJam community.” – Popjam Safety
There are pros and cons of online gaming, but it’s better to teach your child how to be safe than ban them altogether and take that learning opportunity away from them.
Teaching your child about online safety is similar to teaching them about road safety. You start by holding their hand to cross the road, then they learn to look left and right, and soon they have the skills to go out alone and keep themselves safe.
Remember that your child’s best role model is you, so set a positive example of safe behaviour online and they will likely follow.
For more information on online safety, visit our Tech Tips and Advice section