A parents and carers guide to online entertainment and socialising during COVID-19

Posted on 25 March 2021

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Childnet has continued to work with young people and to listen to them.

We have spoken directly with young people in our Youth Advisory Boards, our Digital Leaders Programme, our Digital Champions, as well as more generally in the schools we run sessions in about many aspects of their lives online.

In this blog we will share some of the ways in which young people’s experiences online have changed during the pandemic and highlight some of the opportunities that online entertainment and socialising can provide.

“I do think that there’s probably a lot of stigma around games and TV shows stopping you from doing work and stuff, but I also think that’s kind of the point. We all need a break.”

Even before the pandemic, online games and videos were an important part of young people’s lives. However, with limits on social contact and long periods spent learning from home, the various ‘lockdowns’ during this pandemic have forced young people (and adults) to find ways of keeping themselves entertained. Luckily, technology and the internet has provided them with a wealth of fantastic content and activities.

“Streaming services have got me through lockdown […] It gives you a little bit of a break, because you’re no longer thinking about your schoolwork or whatever’s going on. You just sit and think about whatever’s on the TV and it’s a break from the stress.”

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have allowed young people to enjoy a wide range of films and television shows. When the real-life story happening around us has often been very sad, it is understandable that people are seeking more appealing narratives on these services. Young people have also spoken about films and shows being a way to connect with their friends, as something they can enjoy together or just chat about.

“Me and my friends have a weekly ‘Among Us.’ It helps us to communicate a little bit more. And with TV shows, it puts you in this fictional world. For some people, they find a kind of escape in that.”

Gaming has also given young people a much-needed escape from Covid-19. Young people have told us that the fictional worlds and characters found in games can be a much-needed escape from events happening offline.

Additionally, many young people have been using online games as virtual spaces where they can continue to socialise and spend time with friends who they can no longer see in person.

It might be tempting to worry about the additional ‘screen time’ that this type of entertainment brings. It is important to remember however, that young people are likely finding the pandemic incredibly difficult at times, so streaming and gaming can provide them with much needed respite.


Here are 5 top tips for things that you can do, to help support your children when using online entertainment and gaming services.

  1. Talk regularly with your child about what they enjoy doing, watching, and playing online. For example, you could ask them:
    - What is your favourite part of life online?
    - What is the best thing you saw or did online during lockdown?
    - What are your favourite apps for staying in touch with friends and why?
    - If you could tell me one thing you want me to know about the internet, what would it be?
  2. Understand the apps and services your child is using by researching them further on Common Sense Media and NetAware. You can also research suitable games for young people on the Family Gaming Database, and find out what tools are available to ensure that your child is using these safely on Internet Matters.
  3. Remind your child of the difference between friends they know in person, and ‘friends’ they only know online, e.g. those they chat with in online games. Let them know that they can, and should, tell you straight away if an online friend ever asks them to meet up in person, or does anything to make them feel uncomfortable.
  4. Recognise that young people may use the internet differently and that we all have different coping strategies during this pandemic. Try to remain non-judgemental and listen to their perspectives. Adults may enjoy hosting Zoom quizzes to stay in touch with friends, whereas young people may prefer to socialise with their friends by playing games.
  5. Establish rules and boundaries that work for your family, whilst acknowledging the vital role that technology is playing in their lives right now. For example, you could insist on no devices in bedrooms overnight, and ensure that your child enjoys a range of offline activities each day too. It is particularly effective when adults model these behaviours themselves.

Our Family Agreement is a practical resource which will help you start a conversation with your whole family about how you all use the internet, and help you set out clear expectations for positive and safe internet use together.

For further information and guidance, visit our parent and carer pages on Gaming, Digital Wellbeing, Screen Time and Healthy Balance, Parental Controls, Online Grooming, and Premium Rate Content and In-App Purchases.

You may also like to share the following pages directly with your child:

For 7-11s:
What do I need to know about gaming?
How much time should I spend online?

For 11-18s:
Digital Wellbeing
Screen Time
Privacy Settings
Premium Rate Content

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