Gaming can provide your children with much fun and introduce them to great adventures but they can also be a worry. With nearly a third of children playing online against people they haven't met in person (Ofcom Children and Parents) how worried should we be?
Online gaming is where your children can play in real time with people from around the world by using a computer, games console, tablet or smartphone. Some games also allow children to talk to people through the games itself. This can be done on instant messenger, a headset or video chat. Many parents accept that online gaming can give children very positive experiences but there are concerns around addiction and safety. So how can you keep your child safe?
Find out what games your child is playing and try to understand what it is about it that attracts them. Acknowledge that this may be different from your own upbringing. Children's games that are available can be role play games, based on sport or involve first person shooter. Check that the game your child is playing is age appropriate.
As a parent its easy to look through a book and see if its suitable, a game is harder to assess. So it is always good to see what age rating the game your child plays is.The ratings are issued by PEGI (Pan European Gaming Information)and are classified as suitable for over 3's, over 7's, over 12, over 16 and over 18 These age ratings are based on issues like language, violence, drugs and fear. One thing you could do is play the game yourself to see if you think your child would be ok about it. One such game that divides parents is fortnite. It has a 12 rating but many parents worry about the content of the game. Playing it yourself can therefore help you make the right decision.
Parental controls are ways you can block or filter what your child sees or can do.They can help you plan how long your child can play for and stop them downloading apps they are too young for. Parental controls can be added to mobiles, tablets, games consoles and home broadband.Some games do encourage players to buy extras which will help them in the game. This can make the game more fun and exciting but can also mean that children can be encouraged to spend money they don't have.There are ways you can also change the settings to avoid this.
Ask your child who they are plaything with and talking to.Ensure your child is aware that this brings risks, as some people may not be who they say they are.Make sure your child knows how to report abusive chat. Also remind your children not to share out personal information to people they don't know.and don't allow unknown people to join their other social networks.
Some parents allow their children to game but set clear time limits for this and also clear times of the week when this can happen. Setting boundaries can be a good way to ensure that your child doesn't get too addicted.
Consider where the games console is in your house. If you have it in a public area then it is easier to see and hear what your child is up to.Their bedroom may not be the best place to keep tab on their activity. You can also prevent them playing when they should be sleeping.The downside to this is that some people think that children should be able to play in privacy. Where you allow your child to play is a family decision although the best advise seems to be to set it up where you can practise 'unobtrusive supervision'.
www.askabouytgames.com is a useful site as it helps you know what different parental controls you can set on different devices. www.saferinternet.org.uk also explains all you need to know about gaming and safety. If you want to read what other parents think about games and their suitability check out www.commonsensemedia. Finally www.everybodyplays.co.uk has a good section on a parents guide to gaming.