Your child and online gaming

In common with many other online activities, there are both positive and negative aspects to gaming. But the commonly held traditional view that children’s gaming is largely a negative thing, is becoming rapidly overturned as more people appreciate its many positive aspects. Depending on the games in question, these include:

  • Supporting development of a wide range of cognitive and motor skills
  • Developing qualities such as strategic thinking, rationalising, problem solving and persistence
  • Encouraging creativity
  • Teaching teamwork, in the case of many Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs or MMOs)
  • Teaching competitiveness, again in the case of multiplayer games
  • Socialising with friends, especially when doing so in person is challenging owing to various restrictions.
  • Learning the value of money and spending it wisely.

All of these are qualities are vital not only in gaming, but also in equipping our young people for life ahead of them.

Also, as an industry, game development often leads the way in technology, with innovations in functionality and features finding their way into not only other consumer products, but defence, communications and many other sectors. Gaming equips children to understand and embrace this evolution and its benefits. 

Working with your child

Check out these findings from an Ofcom survey of internet usage in 20231, based on children’s responses:

  • Around 9 in 10 children aged 3-17 played games online 
  • 25% of children aged 8-17 played games online with people they don’t know, and 22% chatted to people they don’t know when gaming

It’s very important that you understand and support your child’s interest in online gaming. Like many parents, you may have little or no interest in it yourself, but there are things you can do to both encourage them to find the best games as well as helping them avoid the negative aspects mentioned above. Who knows, you may even find a favourite game for yourself.

  • 1 Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2023, Ofcom

What are the risks?

  • Risks to children who play games online arise largely from the vast number of people both in the UK and abroad who are also playing, the minimal restrictions involved and the fact that they are not playing face-to-face.
  • Stranger danger can pose a risk to the safety of the child, or a risk of financial or identity theft to you, if your child overshares personal family information online. Cybercriminals also use gaming platforms and forums to recruit young people for illicit activities such as malware coding and money muling, and some radicalisation begins on gaming platforms.
  • Playing games with an inappropriate age rating, potentially exposing them to violent, sexual or other unsuitable content.
  • Playing games which either reference gambling, or involve gambling to, for example, predict results or win money.
  • Running up bills (for example, on in-game properties/in-app purchases), perhaps on your credit card.
  • Spending excessive time gaming, to the exclusion of social contact, exercise and schoolwork, and potential health risks.

Keep your child’s online gaming safe

  • Work with your child to find the best games for their age, interests and personality.
  • Join your child in online gaming from time to time and randomly. This will give you an idea of the games they’re playing and who they connect with.
  • Have open and honest conversations with your child about their online gaming and the risks involved including stranger danger, bullying and oversharing. Tell them that not everybody they meet on gaming platforms and forums is who they claim to be.
  • Set and monitor limits for the amount of daily or weekly time your children spend online gaming.
  • You could pre-load some spending money on to their game, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.
  • Check PEGI (Pan European Game Information) age ratings of games to ensure your children aren’t accessing inappropriate content.
  • Don’t give your child access to your payment card details as extras can be very costly.
  • Impress upon your child that they can come to you or another responsible adult with any concerns. Depending on their age, you could also discuss how to report issues to the gaming platform and/or the police.

There’s much more information about researching the online games your child does and could play – including content, features, benefits, negatives and age ratings – on the Family Gaming Database at 

You could also pick up a copy of Taming Gaming, a book by gaming expert Andy Robertson who has been helping families get more from video games for 15 years.

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