Many gaming devices now mean that children and young people can play online against people they know and people they don't know (which can include adults). As well as just playing games together people can also interact in other ways.
It's important to make sure that games are suitable for their age and that children understand how they can stay safer.
Online gaming things to think about
- Does my child’s gaming device have parental controls that I can use?
- Who is my child interacting with? Are they adults or children?
- If my child is playing games online with strangers, what types of things can we both do to help make that experience safer?
- What type of language are people using in the games and is it appropriate for my child?
- Does my child understand the risks of sharing personal information (e.g. name, email address, phone number) when gaming?
- Does my child know what to do if they are being bullied by another player?
- Does my child know what to do if another player does something to make them feel uncomfortable or frightened?
- What type of content is my child viewing?
Online gaming things to talk about
If you don't play online games you might not be sure how to talk about gaming with your child but there are some things you can ask them like:
- What type of games do you like most? (for example Action, Fantasy, Adventure, Fighting, Racing etc).
- Can you choose the type of character you play in the game?
- What are the characters like?
- What types of things can you do in the game?
- What types of people can you meet in the game?
- What types of things do people like to talk about?
- If someone is being a bully or making you feel uncomfortable, how can you report them in the game?
- Can I have a game with you? (Having a go on the game is a pretty good way to learn, you might have fun but you should probably expect to lose!).
The PEGI system gives age ratings to products to help adults decide if a game is suitable for their child. As well as age ratings, products feature ‘descriptors’ which show why a product has received a certain age rating. For example this might be because it contains violence (including sexual violence), discrimination, depictions of alcohol and drugs, or bad language.
Find out more about online gaming
Many gaming devices including Playstation, Wii, Xbox have information specifically for parents on their websites so it’s worth taking a look.
You can find more advice for parents on the UK Safer Internet Centre website or download Online Gaming: an introduction for parents and carers from Childnet.