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Online gaming - is there an unknown person in your child's room?

Online activities off school site.


Whilst the risks associated to online access to social media is now generally well understood by parents and children alike, what is often not recognised is that online gaming is a platform by which children can communicate with others and others communicate with them.


The spectrum of risk

We do occasionally hear of parents who are not mindful of this and fail to monitor what, who and when children are communicating – or indeed what platforms allow this (including Fortnite, general PC online gaming and TikToc).  On a lower-level this means that the language, nature of discussions and social groupings are not overseen, and at a higher-level means those wishing harm to can have unsupervised access to children.


What is your child hearing?

One phrase I hear more regularly from parents when I address with them any unacceptable language (swearing, sexual references and racist language amongst others) is, ‘Well I don’t know where they got that phrase from, they have not got it from home…’. I put it to many that whilst they may not hear the language from adults and general conversations in the home, they are likely to be hearing it under their headsets whilst they appear to be playing innocently with friends (and strangers!).


The unseen adult in your child’s bedroom

Frighteningly, the issue of adults posing as children to gain access to them, befriending and groom children through online gaming continues and is becoming an ever-increasing risk.


Note: In 2020, the police recorded over 10,000 ONLINE child related sex crimes for the first time and the risk is unlikely to diminish. (NSPCC)


For those adults that feel it is not their role to oversee and manage their child’s access to such platforms I put this to you:


You would not allow an adult posing as a child and whom you have never met to arrive unannounced at your door, walk them into your child’s bedroom late at night with a camera and recording device on the premiss that they ‘want to play’.  Unmonitored online access can do just this – online gaming and social media profiles are a readily accessible, anonymous and difficult to trace route to children left alone.



Support in school

Children regularly receive online access safety messages / assemblies, and as a school we have a very strict monitoring and filtering system on our online facilities.  We limit and monitor what resources children have access to and are ever mindful to highlight to all that what accessed is monitored and recorded.  You however, are unlikely to have this level of security in your home.


Here are a few tips for parents on kids’ internet safety

  1. Keep the computer/ console in a common area of your home — like your living room or kitchen. This can help you monitor what sites / games your child is visiting. Plus, they may be less tempted to visit sites or perform activities they’re not allowed to if you’re nearby.
  2. Whilst gaming headphones can seem a way to reduce the noise distractions, using speakers means you can overhear what is being said.
  3. Only allow your child to access the internet for a limited, set time each day. Homework might be an exception. Online gaming and social media sites can be a time suck, and you don’t want your child spending all of their free time online.
  4. If your child wants to join a social media site or gaming platform, request that you have access to their account credentials. This can help you check for undesirable activities, such as adding suspicious friends, receiving questionable messages, or posting unkind content.
  5. If your child is an older teen, they may think giving you full access to their account is too invasive. Consider a compromise. Require them to add you as a friend so you can monitor their activities via your own account.
  6. Stick with age-appropriate sites. Most social networking sites and gaming platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have an age minimum of 13 years. Some of these sites have additional security settings for minors, as well. Facebook, for example, automatically imposes stricter privacy settings for kids than for adults, so be sure your child is using the correct birth year upon signup. Twitter gives a user the option for an account to be private. In that case, the user approves all follow requests. 
  7. And don’t forget, always review the privacy settings on your child’s profile.