Online gaming: how to help protect children at risk
- No child is completely shielded from the unique dangers online
- There are risks everyone should be aware of from inappropriate content to addictive behaviour such as gambling
- How can we help to protect those who are most vulnerable and who may be more trusting and less aware about malicious or addictive activity on the web?
Research commissioned as part of Zurich’s Safer Schools initiative, shows a 17% rise in livestreaming amongst children since lockdown – with more than one in five ‘broadcasters’ now chatting to strangers online. Livestreaming, which involves broadcasting live video over the internet, is one of the riskiest activities for children on the web – as this type of broadcast is public, can expose kids to inappropriate content and is extremely difficult to moderate. But the threats do not stop there, as The Gambling Commission say that gaming can be a journey into betting, through ‘loot boxes’ in video games or on apps. Loot boxes allow gamers to pay for a chance to win virtual items such as coins, enable players to change weapons or to become a new virtual character – otherwise known as an avatar.
Gaming safely can be a fun and interesting way to spend time, encouraging teamwork and developing skills, such as concentration – it’s also a lockdown friendly way for kids to interact, when they can’t physically meet up. But, there are risks you should be aware of – so, here’s our top seven steps to help safeguard children:
- Have control: Set up passwords for your kids and only permit use when you are able to engage and check what your younger family members are doing online
- Safe house: Zurich in partnership with Ineqe, provides information about how to activate safety settings on any device from a dedicated safety centre hub. Ensure you are using the best settings provided by your Internet service provider. Find out how to access these, by searching for them on the above site – search by name, then add the phrase ‘safety settings’ – for example ‘BT safety settings’
- Get familiar: It’s really important to help young people to understand how to livestream and use video apps safely and check they’re speaking to people they already know. How do you know if your kids are using untrustworthy apps? Talk to them. Research the topic yourself, so you have at least a basic knowledge – Net Aware has advice on livestreaming, including how to safeguard children on apps made popular by lockdown, such as Zoom, HouseParty and TikTok
- Play it safe: If you’re anxious starting a conversation about livestreaming safety with your children – try conversation starters such as ‘have you heard about this?’, rather than ‘have you tried this’? Use this chat as an opportunity to have a conversation about staying safe and how you’re in it together
- Lucky charms: Educate young people about games linked to winning virtual rewards – especially if games use random chance to gain items after pledging real money
- Age alert: Thankfully, most games have an age rating based on their themes, to help you decide if a game is appropriate. But, do check who your children are talking to when livestreaming – ratings don’t include communication features, so a game with a low age rating may let kids speak to strangers
- Get support: Talking to someone about an online problem can be daunting and speaking face-to-face may be difficult. If your child is concerned about anything, let them know they can come to you or talk to an adult they trust. You can also signpost any young person to Childline online, if they feel they can’t speak to anyone else
The Ineqe Safeguarding Group is the UK’s largest specialist independent safeguarding company. All the material on Safer Schools is quality assured by Ineqe’s in-house Counsel and an editorial panel comprising local authority and school safeguarding teams.
Jim Gamble, former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command, and current chief executive of Ineqe, says of Safer Schools: “This is the most exciting safeguarding children initiative I’ve ever been involved with. The powerful potential the app has to revolutionise safeguarding practices in school communities grows by the day.”
To find out more about the benefits of Safer Schools, and to download the app, visit our dedicated Safer Schools page.