11-14 year olds
Young people aged 11-14 are likely to be completely independent in their internet and technology use and may play online games on a daily basis. This increased independence, can for some young people, come before they are emotionally capable of managing their time online and the emotions or behaviours which it can bring. The challenge with online games is that they offer players a unique opportunity to act out in ways that wouldn't always be acceptable or achievable in the real world. Players can take on alternate personalities or characters and work together in teams to explore the virtual gaming world. When it comes to supporting young people aged 11-14 with online gaming, we need to empower them to make choices which are right for them and ensure they have the strategies for managing their own time and online interactions safely and responsibly.
How often are young people aged 11-14 playing online games?
OFCOM, the UK regulator for communications services, publishes an annual review into the media use and attitudes of children and parents which looks into the general understanding of children aged 5-15.
In 2018 their report found that:
6 top tips for supporting young people aged 11-14 online
- Read reviews and be aware of the risks - Before a young person downloads a new game, try to check the ratings within the app store first to be aware of any potential risks. You can read full reviews on Common Sense Media which offers advice on what to expect within a game and key advice for parents and carers. You can also find out more about PEGI age ratings and content descriptors by visiting Ask About Games.
- Establish and support with realistic boundaries - Young people need support with managing their time online and striking a balance between online and offline activities. Whilst gaming can be a great way to relax, have fun and engage with others it can also be a distraction from the real world. Most games have been specifically designed to 'hook' a user in and keep them playing. This is often done by allowing a user to win or succeed on the basis they stay within the game for an extended period of time in order to achieve this. Try to set time limits which work with the game so young people can enjoy them without fear of losing points.
- Encourage safe choices - Make sure young people know not to share their personal information or anyone else's when playing online games. This includes whilst chatting within a game, creating profiles or sharing pictures. Encourage them to talk, and to ask for help if someone is pressuring them to share personal information or if they ask to meet up in real life. You can report any concerns you have that someone is behaving inappropriately towards a young person online to CEOP.
- Explore reporting and blocking features together - Most games will have reporting and blocking tools which a young person can use if anything worries or upsets them within a game. Explore these buttons together and encourage young people to use them and always give as much information and context when filling in a report.
- Take control of in-app purchases - Most games now have in-app purchases which allow players to spend real or in-game money on things like extra lives or tools to complete a tricky level. These purchases need to be carefully managed or a young person could quickly end up spending more money than they had intended to. Find out how to turn off or restrict in-app purchases through The App Store, Google Play or Windows Store.
- Be supportive and keep an open dialogue - As a family discuss how playing games online can make you feel. Discuss how you know you have been online for too long, considering physical, emotional and device-level factors, e.g. headaches, feeling grumpy, or device batteries running low. It's important that young people know who they can turn to for support, whether this is a trusted adult at home or school, or even contacting a helpline. Visit our 'Need help?' page for young people for further advice, support and suggested helplines.
Conversation starter ideas
A simple and effective way to support your child with online gaming is through discussion. An open dialogue is the best way to help your child access the amazing games the internet has to offer whilst keeping them safe at the same time.
- What do you enjoy about online gaming? What benefits does it have for you?
- Do you think online gaming can ever have a negative impact on us?
- What happens when you’ve been playing a game for too long? (To your body? To your mood? To your device?)
- What would you do if something ever worried or annoyed you within a game? How would you support others?
- Who could you talk to if you were worried about anything within an online game?