Is my child ready to do online gaming?

Many people enjoy online gaming whether that is using a phone, tablet, computer or games console. If you are not a gamer yourself it can be difficult to understand the risks to your child if they are gaming online.

Content. It is very common in schools to find young children of 7 or 8 telling us about Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto or other 18 rated games. Games are rated to provide guidance about the types of material you can expect to see and hear and tell you what age they are suitable for 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18: they relate to age suitability rather than difficulty of the game. The following information explains why a game would be rated 18.

PEGI 18 The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since it can be very subjective in many cases, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion. As well as an age rating, games also carry descriptors indicating the main reasons why a game has received a particular age rating. There are eight such descriptors: violence, bad language, fear, drugs, sexual, discrimination, gambling and online gameplay with other people. See examples below.

Bad Language Game contains bad language Discrimination Game contains depictions of, or material which may encourage, discrimination Drugs Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs Fear Game may be frightening or scary for young children Sex Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references Violence Game contains depictions of violence

A game such as Grand Theft Auto has all of these issues. A game such as Minecraft is rated 7. For more information about age ratings see the PEGI website http://www.pegi.info/en/index/
For more information about suitability of games see Common Sense Media https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Contact. Online gaming by its nature involves playing with other players. Again it is not uncommon to find very young children being allowed to play games online with strangers. This puts the child at risk of bullying and grooming and even potentially radicalisation. Younger children of primary age can find it difficult to identify when a person is behaving suspiciously and so it is not recommended they play games online with people they don’t know if there is the ability to message or speak on a headset. This includes games such as Clash Royale or Clash of Clans where gamers band together in clans – your child can speak to all those in their clan – make sure you and they know who the other players are. Set up the clan so strangers cannot join and if other users behave badly they need to be removed from the game. Even where users are playing with friends they know, there is a risk of online bullying just the same as social media apps.
Where users are playing adult rated games, many of the people playing them will be adults and therefore the conduct of those players may not be suitable for younger users. Adult gamers can sometimes be quite unpleasant to younger players, especially on games that they do not consider suitable for younger players.
Online access and parental controls. Be aware that modern games consoles have access to the internet via browsers so if you have put parental controls on other devices you need to consider putting parental controls on the X-box/Playstation/Nintendo Switch https://www.internetmatters.org/parental-controls/devices-computers/

This means that they can access lots of other websites, apps and games other than the ones you may be aware of.
In summary:

  • Check the age rating and content of games
  • Make sure children are playing with friends they know if they can message or chat with them
  • Any online game has a risk of bullying even where a child is playing with friends they know – make sure you monitor or supervise