Online gaming is hugely popular with children and young people and there are many ways for users to connect and play games online.
These include free games found on the internet, games on mobile phones, handheld consoles and other devices, as well as downloadable games and boxed games on PCs and consoles such as the PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch. Internet connectivity in a game adds a new opportunity for gamers as it allows players to find, chat with and play against/with other players from around the world (in a multi-player game).
How can I teach young people about this?
Online safety advice is directly applicable to the gaming environment because of the risks that are present. It is essential that children are aware of these issues and are given the skills and knowledge to help manage and reduce these risks, with the help of those around them.
For primary pupils, the SMART rules offer straightforward memorable safety messages that can be applied to online gaming and the five accompanying cartoon films bring these rules to life.
For secondary pupils, other safety considerations may need to be addressed in more detail, including age ratings and inappropriate material available online, unwanted contact from others online who may wish to bully or abuse them, risks caused by a child's own behaviour and the behaviour of others and advertising and financial risks.
Top tips for online gaming
- It may seem daunting, but one of the best things that you can do is to engage with the gaming environment and begin to understand what makes it is so attractive to young people as well as the types of activities that they enjoy - have a go on some games yourself!
- Talk with children about the types of games they are playing. Are they role-playing games, sports games, strategy games or first person shooters? If you’re not sure what they are, have a go yourself to find out more.
- Discuss the age and content ratings on games. These ratings should be treated the same way that we treat film classifications. The regulatory body PEGI rate all games on sale in the UK. It is important that both your pupils and their parents are aware of their meaning.
- Some games may offer children the chance to chat with other players by voice and text. Ask them who they are playing with and find out if they are talking to other players. If chat is available, then the type of language that is used by other players may be an issue for consideration.
- Remember that the same safety rules for going online and social networking sites apply to playing online games too. Familiarise yourself with the SMART rules, and encourage the children and young people in your care to do the same as well.
The gaming leaflet below explains in detail the different types of gaming experiences available and outlines the risks that may apply. The FAQs within the leaflet will also help you to provide advice to parents confidently and in an accessible way.