News

25 September 2020

Online gaming: Keeping kids safe

Two teens gaming

Now we’re spending so much more time at home, playing video games is a fun way for kids to stay entertained and connected with friends.

But with so many different online gaming platforms and games available it can be difficult to stay on top of exactly what your child is doing online.

Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular gaming platforms for kids and some tips about how to keep them safe.

Popular games and gaming sites

Official age rating: 7 +

Why do kids love it? Kids love to play Minecraft because they can get creative building and exploring virtual worlds.The game is a bit like Lego for the online world and kids can create anything they want out of virtual building blocks.

Is it safe? Children under 13 need parental permission to play Minecraft and accounts that belong to 6-12 year olds have default settings so they can’t send or receive messages.

Over 13’s have access to the chat function and can play with other players so you should make sure to check out safety settings.

 

Official age rating: 7 +

Why do kids love it? Roblox gives players access to a whole collection of games that appeal to lots of different interests.  Kids can also learn about basic coding and create their own game.

 Is it safe? Roblox has a number of parental controls that can help keep your child safe on the game. It has a chat function but this can be disabled and they use filters to stop inappropriate content and personal information being shared.

Official age rating: 13+

Why do kids love it? Discord is a live-streaming and messaging platform that kids might like to use to stay in touch with their friends and watch playbacks of games.You can chat with friends in private groups or talk on public forums.

Is it safe? We don’t think Discord is suitable for anyone under the age of 13. You should make sure to switch on the ‘Keep me safe' function so your child can’t be contacted by people they don’t know and explore other privacy settings that can help keep them safe.

 

Our top tips for keeping kids safe while gaming

 

1. Agree some rules around gaming

 

Gaming is a fun way for kids to relax and stay entertained outside of school but it’s important to agree rules to keep them safe whilst gaming. These could include which games are safe to play, who they can play with, where they can use their devices at home or how long they can play for.

 

For example, you might agree with them they can play in the main family rooms at the weekends with their school friends.  Different rules will work for different families but often work best when agreed together as a family. That way your child can share things like how long each game lasts which is helpful to know when agreeing time limits.

 

It can help to write down any new rules together as a family so you can come back to them later. Use our family agreement to get you started.  

 

PlayStation 4 has information on parental controls that can help you manage how long your child spends on the app that you might want to explore. 

2. Get to know some of the most popular games and gaming sites

 

Check out our Net Aware reviews to familiarise yourself with your child’s favourite games and for information on how to set up parental controls to keep them safer.

 

You might also want to check whether the device your child is using has any additional safety settings.  Xbox has guidance for parents on how to set up parental controls  to help you manage how long your child spends on the device.  Here are some links to guidance for some other brands:

 

3. Check the age ratings

 

It’s important to check the age rating of a game before you let your child play it. These can usually be found on the official site or on the app store it was downloaded from.

 

Most games should have a PEGI rating which gives the recommended minimum age a player should be. PEGI ratings only look at whether the content of a game is suitable for a certain age group. They don’t consider other features such as chat or whether the games allows you talk to other players you might not know. Make sure to keep this in mind when you’re deciding whether an app or game is appropriate for your child.

 

Age ratings are a general guide and don’t cover everything. It's important to check the game out for yourself before letting your child play it. And you know your child better than anyone, so think about whether it’s suitable for them as an individual.

4. Talk to them about who they’re talking to

 

For lots of kids gaming is a way they can stay connected with friends. While playing games with other people is a more sociable way to be online, it’s important to check in regularly with your child about who they’re talking to.

 

Lots of gaming platforms have chat functions that let you to talk to people you don’t know. Make sure to check the communication features on the games your child plays and explore the safety features available.

 

We would recommend they only chat to friends they have actually met, like their school friends or people they know from other offline activities.

 

If it’s a game your child has been playing for a while you might want to ask them whether they’ve joined any new chats or forums. Have a conversation with them about the types of things they’re discussing and what is appropriate to share. 

 

Make sure you check in with your child regularly about who they’re talking to on their favourite games. Remind them that conversations should only be about the game, and if someone starts asking them other questions or suggests they speak using another app like Snapchat or Instagram they should tell you.

5. Look out for live-streaming gaming platforms like Twitch and Discord

 

Twitch and Discord are both live-streaming platforms with other gamers that let you watch playbacks of games. Often on platforms like these, videos play automatically when you open the app or site. This means it’s hard to control what your child sees and they could easily come across a game or video that isn’t suitable.

 

You should make sure to ask your child about some of the channels they watch on these types of platforms to see if they’re appropriate and let them know they can always come to you if they see anything upsetting.

6. Remind them it’s ok to take a break

 

Playing competitive games like Fifa and Fortnite with other people can be exciting but if a child makes a mistake or loses it might sometimes make them feel stressed or upset.

 

Encourage them to take a break from their screen and do a different activity to help them relax if they ever feel overwhelmed whilst playing a game.

 

And remind them that if they ever receive a message or comment that upsets them they shouldn’t reply straight away and should always avoid using hurtful of mean language in response. Let them know they can come to you if they need advice about talking to a friend online.