Online Gaming and E-Safety

The festive holiday often brings new consoles and games into the home, many of which include online content. These online games involve interacting with many other players, which means your child will be talking with strangers in an environment they feel completely comfortable and at ease in.
Many games sites allow the user to create a profile, using personal information, and without the proper safety precautions this could be open for all to see (much like a social networking profile).

Online games often involve a chat function; this may be text chat or voice chat. The same risks that apply to general chat rooms also apply to in-game chat – particularly around personal information and inappropriate conversations / language.Players may join clans, guilds or similar groups within these games, and these may encourage their members to use 3rd party forums and communication platforms such as Discord, TeamSpeak, Ventrillo, Mumble, Skype, or Curse. Whilst many such groups will consist of like-minded gamers with a mutually agreed code of conduct, they are essentially totally unmoderated spaces, with no restrictions on language used or topics discussed. Many gamers are adults and conversation may be highly unsuitable for minors. Whoever sets up these groups can easily identify the IP address (and therefore home location) of all the other members.

Top tips:

  • Gamertags/usernames should not contain personal information about the child or match their email address – e.g Chloe2005 might give away the name, gender and age of the child.
  • Ensure any privacy settings within a game are set to the highest level.
  • Take an interest in your child’s online gaming habits. Discuss what games they play, who they play with and talk to, and how they know their online “friends”.
    Remind your child not to share information that may give away their location (including their school) and not to share personal information or photos. They should be suspicious of anyone who repeatedly asks them for these things. Let them know they can talk to you if they have concerns.
  • Most games and consoles have some sort of report feature and will allow you to block certain players. Make sure your child knows how to do this.
  • Any internet enabled device, including games consoles, laptops, iPads, phones, should be kept in communal spaces like the living room, and not allowed in bedrooms or where children are often alone.
  • 3rd party communication platforms like Discord, TeamSpeak etc are not appropriate for young people, who should keep their in-game chat within the game itself.
    Follow the age rating on Games and Apps. As well as having more graphic horror, gore, bad language, age-inappropriate content and violence, a 15 or 18 certificate game will not have the same restrictions and e-safety precautions as one deemed suitable for a 12 year old. Lack of appropriate safeguards is often the primary reason why a game is rated 18.
  • Consoles include extensive parental controls which allows you to block/allow many online gaming features, such as chat, adding friends, etc. You can prevent your child from playing 15 and 18 games, set time limits and the hours of the day that the console can be used. If you are not sure how to do this, ask a relative or friend, or google “how to set parental controls on <my console>”.