Safer Internet Day: 5 ways to keep children’s online gaming safe

Online games have been crucial for many children and young people over the last two years, connecting them with friends they couldn’t see face-to-face, and serving as a much-needed release from the stress of the pandemic.

But as well as connecting them with friends, kids also play online with strangers, which can be risky. And even when their fellow gamers have no sinister ulterior motives, the heightened emotions felt during gaming can lead to young gamers saying and doing things they may not say and do in real life, which can cause upset.

New research by the UK Safer Internet Centre (saferinternet.org.uk), which coordinates Safer Internet Day, found nearly three-quarters (73%) of young people questioned reported someone being mean or nasty during an online game, seeing someone cheat (73%) or falling out with a friend (68%) when playing online.

And while 66% of parents have worried about their child meeting someone ‘bad’ through online games, more than a third (34%) of young people say they’d be likely to block someone if things went wrong during an online game, and 16% report quitting an online game completely, when they’ve come into contact with a mean person or negative comments.

“With 59% of young people saying they want to learn more about how to play online games safely, it’s encouraging to see how children are managing the risks they’re exposed to within online games,” says Will Gardner, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre. “This is essential to being safe online, looking after ourselves and respecting others.

“We need to foster a safe environment by encouraging conversations between parents, carers and children. Safer Internet Day provides the perfect opportunity to speak to young people about the support strategies they need to stay safe online.”

Gardner has put together the following tips to help children, young people and parents better understand how to play games safely, and he adds: “Everyone has their part to play in making the internet a better place. These tips will help you to enjoy playing online games safely, while helping to identify potential risks online.”

1. Always be kind and respectful to others online

Gardner advises online gamers to use their actions and words with care, and stresses: “Remember, what you do, say and share online can have a big impact on the way other people feel, as well as how others perceive you. Being kind and respectful helps make the internet fun and safe for everyone, even if a friend is beating you at your favourite game.

“When emotions are high, take a moment to reflect and continue when you’re feeling calmer. Online games are fun, but we need to make sure we consider other people’s feelings when playing.”

2. Respect other people’s boundaries

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Gardner stresses that “no means no”, and online gamers should never push other people to do something they’re not comfortable with. “If someone’s pressuring you online, remember you can always say no and tell an adult you trust,” he says.

One of the most important things to do if you’re not sure about something during an online game, is to seek help and advice from a trusted family member or friend, stresses Gardner. “The internet is a resource to enjoy and learn from, but be cautious of anything or anyone you’re not 100% comfortable with or confident about,” he says. “Speaking to someone is the first step in getting support and moving forward.

Gardner stresses parents are essential in ensuring children play and connect with others safely, and explains: “It’s important to ask questions and take an interest in what your child enjoys online. An essential part of having this open dialogue is not to judge, even if their behaviour or life online isn’t what you wanted or expected. This ensures your child feels they can come to you if they make a mistake or experience a problem online.”

Just as young people are encouraged to talk about what they’re unsure of, parents should ensure they discuss any issues too. “Chances are you’ll find other parents who are trying to figure out how to help their family amid negative and potentially harmful experiences, within online games,” says Gardner.

He says there are lots of organisations which will support parents and children if something goes wrong online, including the Report Harmful Content website (reportharmfulcontent.com), which can assist with reporting issues such as cyberbullying, impersonation and threats to online service providers. And Childnet’s Need Help page (childnet.com/get-help) can help you too.

https://www.newschainonline.com/lifestyle/life/safer-internet-day-5-ways-to-keep-childrens-online-gaming-safe-252159

Steve Liem

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