7-11 year olds

Online gaming is often a popular activity with children aged 7-11, many of whom have become increasingly independent users of technology and the internet, and own their own devices. Their online gaming habits most likely consist of games which offer more features than those for a younger audience, such as in-game chat, and even games which are intended for an older audience and may contain scenes of violence or frightening content.  This access to online games which are intended for older users and desire for independence when going online could mean they are at an increased risk of seeing inappropriate or upsetting content or even witnessing or experiencing things which leave them feeling worried, upset or confused. It's important to ensure that children have a bank of strategies to use if something does go wrong online especially as they become more independent users of technology and the internet. 

How much are children aged 7-11 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 media access of young children aged 3-4, as well as the general understanding of children aged 5-15.  

In 2018 their report found that:

6 top tips for supporting children aged 7-11 online

  1. Check for age ratings - Most games have an age rating from PEGI which are displayed on the packaging of the game or within some app stores along with content descriptors which show what will be seen within a game, e.g. violence, drugs or scenes of a sexual nature. These are there to help you and your child to choose age appropriate games. You can also proactively search for age appropriate games and apps on Common Sense Media.
  2. Explore the safety features - Online games offer different safety features including parental controls. You can find out more about how to set these up by using the gaming guides on the main hot topic page or by visiting the UK Safer Internet Centre guides. You can also find out how to set up parental controls on a gaming device by visiting the Internet Matters parental controls guides.
  3. Set up and play together - It's a good idea to help your child set up any new gaming accounts so you can make sure the correct safety features are in place. You could also spend some time playing the games together initially so you can see what happens within the game, support them with any worries and establish boundaries for playing the game. 
  4. Establish boundaries - Why not try using our family agreement to create a set of rules or boundaries to help keep your child safe when playing games online. At this age children can contribute their own ideas for safe online gaming and may respond more positively to rules which have been created in partnership with them. For more information on how to put the family agreement into practice with children of different ages please visit our family agreement blog.
  5. 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, noticing the device battery is now low. Make sure your child knows what to do if something is worrying or upsetting them online, such as pressing the report or block buttons and telling a trusted adult.
  6. Encourage your child to make safe choices - Make sure your child knows not to share their personal information or anyone else's when playing online games. This could be whilst chatting within a game, creating profiles or sharing pictures. Encourage your child to always come and talk to you if someone has asked them for personal information within a game or if they ask them to meet up in real life. You can report any concerns you have that someone is behaving inappropriately towards a child online to CEOP.

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.

  1. What is your favourite game to play online?
  2. What things make you happy when playing online games?
  3. What things make you unhappy/angry/sad when playing online games?
  4. How long do you think you spend playing online games each day/ week? 
  5. What happens when you’ve been playing online games for too long?What happens to your body, to your mood, and to your device?