Helping your child stay safe online
The internet is amazing. Children can play, learn, create and connect - opening up a whole world of exciting possibilities. But with the digital world changing all the time, how can you make sure your child’s staying safe?
Gaming can be a great way for young people to relax, socialise with their friends and have fun. Children can play on games consoles, apps or websites, and chat to other players or watch them play through live-streaming. But there are some dangers. And with so many games available online, it can be hard for parents to know how to keep their child safe.
- Children may view inappropriate or upsetting content if they play games that aren't suitable for their age. This could include sexual or violent material. It might be in-game content or produced by other players.
- Some players can be abusive towards others or try to exlude them from the game. Some players may also hack another user's account or try to steal and destroy their virtual possessions. This can be as upsetting for a young person as if it happened in real life.
- Children may play with adults they don't know. People of all ages play games. Some adults may exploit this and try to build an emotional connection with a child for the purpose of grooming.
- Some children may find it hard to stop playing games or find that gaming is getting the way of them doing other activities.
Top tips for helping your child stay safe whilst playing games online
Check the games content before you let your child play
Check the age suggestion
Know how to mute, block and report other players
Be Share Aware
Activate safety settings
Talk to your child about the game they are playing
All boxed games for consoles and computers within the UK are given a PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) rating of age 3, 7, 12, 16, or 18. These age ratings tell you who the game is suitable for based on the type of content you’ll see when playing. Indicators on the game’s packaging explain why it’s been given its rating.
Games on app stores also have age ratings. Google Play, Windows Store, Nintendo eShop and Oculus use the PEGI system. But the Apple App Store and Amazon Apps have their own age ratings. Most games distributers will provide information about the game's content so make sure you read before downloading. Age ratings are a helpful guide, but each child is different. So it's also useful to think about how mature your child is for their age and the kinds of content they'd feel comfortable with.
Talk to your child about their online safety
You might find it helpful to start with a family discussion to set boundaries and agree what's appropriate. Or you might need a more specific conversation about an app or website your child wants to use or something you're worried about.
Be positive about what you see, but also be open about concerns you have: "I think this site's really good" or "I'm a little worried about things I've seen here".
Talk to your child about what you think is appropriate – but also involve them in the conversation. Ask what they think is OK for children of different ages – they'll feel involved in the decision-making.
Be aware that your child might talk about friends who use apps or visit sites that you've decided aren't suitable. Be ready to discuss your reasons, but recognise that they may not agree with you. Listen carefully for the reasons why.
Go through a final list of sites you both agree are OK, and work out when you'll next discuss it.
Ask about things they might see online which make them feel uncomfortable
Reassure your child that they can always talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Show them how to report or block on the sites and apps they use. Use Net Aware to find out how.
Tell them you'll help them to report anything upsetting they've seen, or to deal with online bullying.
Ask your child if they know:
- where reporting functions are
- how to block someone
- how to keep information private.
Talk about online privacy, and being Share Aware. Explain that online behaviour – including sharing personal information – should mirror behaviour in person.
Explain that talking to strangers isn't always 'bad', but they should always be careful about what they share and sometimes people aren't who they say they are.
Talk to someone about online safety
Whether you want to set up parental controls, adjust privacy settings or get advice on social networks, experts from the free O2 & NSPCC helpline can help - 0808 800 5002
What to do if something goes wrong online?
If something goes wrong online, you can use the website links provided to seek guidance or advice.
Use the block and report buttons on games
Have a procedure at home if you child sees something which makes them unhappy. (At school, we encourage the children to turn the Ipads over / screens off if they spot something which makes them unhappy. Encourage your child not to delete anything which makes them unahppy untul they've shown you or another adult)
You can talk to a member of staff at school who will always be happy to help.
For urgent or serious issues online, https://www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/ - is a useful tool.
Advice and guidance on this page was taken from the NSPCC website.