Online gaming... what do you need to know?

Adults looking to harm young people can use gaming platforms to target children and build relationships with them. Ensure your children know they can get help at any time and find out what you can do to support them.

Concerned about a child/young person?

If you're worried about your child and think something is not quite right, it's best to be on the safe side and find out more.

Information & Advice:

Why do children use gaming services?

Gaming is one of the most popular pastimes for young people and adults, with the ability to play with anyone no matter where you are from. Many games now are interactive online giving people the chance to play against other users, chat and purchase add-ons.
Gaming is also a fun way to spend time with friends and develop skills such as teamwork, problem solving and concentration.

Chatting.

Online gaming is a type of social network with the ability to chat to other gamers playing the same game.

Although the majority of gamers will use this function to communicate within the game to coordinate game tactics, it can just be to chat about anything as they play. There are two ways that people can communicate in games, through a messaging service or via a headset. Some consoles also allow people to message other gamers even when they're not playing a game.

The chat settings depend on their privacy settings, they can be contacted by people they may or may not know. To avoid messages from people you don't know, we advise you put your account on private.

Gamers may also play against Bots. These bots can be hard to spot as their messages can seem very realistic. The messages sent by bots may contain links to external websites which are inappropriate for young people, sometimes showing violent or sexual content.

The risks of chatting in games.

Playing games can be exciting and consuming and sometimes this can mean that children can become a little less guarded when considering who they talk to and what they share. It may also be seen as 'normal' to talk to adults in a game - especially if children can learn from them - than it would be to talk to an adult on another social media platform. Some offenders seek to exploit this and encourage children to chat with the aim of building a relationship with them.

Offenders may also try to encourage a child to move from a game to a private messenger platform to have one-to-one conversations with them. These platforms help offenders to build a relationship with the young person quickly, and are often harder to moderate than group chat within games.

Four tips to help you to support your child to stay safe when chatting.

Chat functions in games do differ however there are ways that you can support your child to stay safe if they chat whilst gaming.

- Have ongoing conversations with your child about who they are talking to online. Discuss whether they know them in real life and what they share with them.

- Take time to explore games with your children. Ask them to show you what they like about the game and take an interest. Speak with them about making their profile private if possible and talk with them about information that is safe to share e.g. nicknames as opposed to full names.

- Be aware of the chat platforms your child is using. Ask your child about what they would do if someone within a game asked to talk to them in private, whether that's on another platform or within the game. Help your child to identify this warning sign and explain what they can do to help keep safe.

- All young people need support to make safe decisions online. It is recommended that primary aged children remain under adult supervision whilst gaming, for example ensuring an adult is within earshot of conversations and able to see any chat taking place.

Gifts within gaming.

Some games and apps allow users to make purchases. Gamers can buy tools that can be used in the game to give them an advantage such as weapons, coins or cheats.

Many children do not have access to money to make purchases in games, so it can be tempting to accept 'in game currency' to help them progress.

Offenders use gifts in gaming to encourage children to trust them. They may offer gifts asking for nothing in return, this can be part of the grooming process and can help to build a close relationship with a young person. Others may try to use gifts as 'leverage' to persuade young people to do something such as moving to a different online platform, going on webcam or taking photos of themselves.

Talking to your child about gifts within gaming.

- Speak with your child about bribery and 'too-good to be true' offers. Encourage them to question anything they are offered online from someone they do not know offline, and remind them that it's always better to check in with a parent or carer if they are unsure what to do if offered a reward or gift.

- Speak to your child about 'warning signs'. Talk to your child about the feelings they might get when someone doesn't feel right, or be specific with examples. These might be inappropriate words that someone could use in a conversation (e.g. sexually explicit language) or behaviours such as asking for lots of personal information.

- Young people can sometimes feel complicit in abuse if they have chatted with someone they feel they shouldn't have or accepted a gift and something has gone wrong. Reassure your child that no matter what might have happened you are always there to confide in and it is never their fault. Ongoing reminders that it's never too late to get help are important.

Remember...

Reassure your child that no matter what might have happened you are always there to confide in and it is never their fault. Ongoing reminders that it's never too late to get help are important.​

Get Support:

Internet Matters give information, advice and support to keep children safe online.

> Learn more

Childline are available to give support through their councillors, they also have support boards and host loads of information and advice.

> Learn more

NSPCC are the 'UK's Children's Charity' providing support for children going through abuse and they have lots of advice for keeping children safe online.

> Learn more

CEOP is a command of the UK's National Crime Agency, and is tasked to work both nationally and internationally to bring online child sex offenders, including those involved in the production, distribution and viewing of child abuse material, to the UK courts.

> Learn more

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