PARENTS GUIDE TO ONLINE GAMING
There’s evidence that in the last decade, physical games have become less popular and neglected. The OFCOM’s annual research highlights this and explains how gaming is one of the top activities enjoyed by 5-16-year olds online, with many of them gaming via mobile devices or using their games console.
The type of games children play, who they may be speaking to, why video games are addictive for children and teens and for how much time children and young people should play, are some of the topics and concerns that we will cover throughout this post by exploring the online gaming environment and providing a wealth of safety advice.
Consequently, parents, teachers and carers will have an overview awareness about gaming and answers to most of their main concerns.
Why are video games addictive to children and teenagers?
- Virtual World: The first thing we need to understand is that video games allow children to escape easily into a virtual world, and most of the time, the virtual world becomes preferable for them than their own realities.
- Social Connections: For children, games can be more than just games. Many games reflect societies we find in the “real world“, with towns, currency, stores etc.
- Challenge and Levelling-up: Game activities are designed to keep the player engaged with difficult hand-eye coordination challenges, coupled with the goal of obtaining high scores (Super Mario Brothers or Tetris). Moreover, to reach the next stage of the game is a slow process and can take hours, weeks, or even months.
How many hours per day should parents allow children to play games?
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child screen time to one or two hours per day. Ideally, it is recommended a limit of one hour per day of video games for an school age child and no more than two hours per day for teens.
When does it become an addiction?
- Even if there’s not an specific time that defines when a child has an addiction to gaming. An online survey of players from the MMOG World of Warcraft found that kids who played for 44 to 82 hours per week lead to:
– Lower levels of offline social support and higher levels of negative symptoms.
– Harm of spending excessive hours playing.
- If a child is gaming more than 15-30 hours per week, parents may need to be vigilant. Addiction to gaming may lead to:
– Conflicts with parents
– Lack of interest towards other activities
– Loss of friends
Consoles, Phones and Tablets
Game Consoles such as Xbox, Wii PlayStation, and Nintendo are the most popular gadgets for gamers. Consoles are easily connected to the Internet and allow players to reach new levels and new entertainment experiences.
Games on devices such as Phones and Tablets are used mostly to download games. Websites or apps can offer free downloads or in some cases will require users to pay between $1 and $10 per game.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
It’s a combination of technology and optical illusion that generates a great impact on players minds. It develops an immersive experience with realistic images and better sound.
Augmented reality uses any type of space in which characters can appear and be seen through screens. Such as the Pokemon games.
Virtual Reality uses special equipment such as Virtual Reality glasses (VR) that players need to wear when playing. When this happens, images appear in front of their lenses and audio is also played to make the game more fun and real.
Online Gaming – The Risks
The main risks presented when online gaming are related to Content, Contact, Conduct and Commercialism:
- CONTENT: inappropriate material is available to children online.
- CONTACT: potential contact from someone online who may wish to bully or abuse them.
- CONDUCT: children may be at risk because of their own and others’ online behaviour, such as sharing personal information.
- COMMERCIALISM: young people’s privacy can be invaded by aggressive advertising and marketing schemes.
Online Gaming – Top Tips for Parents
Engage with the gaming environment and begin to understand what makes it is so attractive to young people as well as the types of activities that they enjoy!
- Read game reviews to understand more about potential risks or difficulties other players have experienced and content they have seen.
- Some games may offer children the chance to chat with other players by voice and text. Ask them who they are playing with and find out if they are talking to other players.
Speak to your children about never revealing personal information or agreeing to meet up offline.
Online Gaming – Smart Rules to prevent danger
- SAFE: Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information when playing online: your e-mail address, phone number and password, as well as images and videos of yourself, friends and family
- MEETING someone you have only known online can be dangerous. No matter how long you have spoken to someone for, or how nice they are, if you have never met this person before then they are still a stranger. If anyone asks to meet up then tell an adult immediately.
- ACCEPTING gaming requests, direct messages or clicking on links from people you don’t know can lead to problems – they may contain viruses, inappropriate content or nasty messages!
- RELIABLE People we speak to online might not always be who they say they are as it is very easy to give away false information online. Try to only speak to your friends and family.
- TELL your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.
- CHECK if the game you have purchased contains the appropriate PEGI age rating label according to the age of the child.
- INSTALL an antivirus on your PC and avoid visiting doubtful Websites.