Three Thinkuknow resources to help you keep young people safe while gaming

Apex Legends, Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. No doubt you’ve come across these games when working with young people.

Gaming is a hugely popular activity with all ages. Among those who play games, three-quarters of 5-15s play games online and many of those will be using online chat features within them (Ofcom, 2018).

With many games now available on mobile devices, young people no longer have to be at home to play them. In fact, games such as Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite actively encourage them to go outside and explore their surrounding area.

For most young people, gaming is a fun way to spend time with friends, meet new people, and develop teamwork, concentration and problem-solving skills. For a select few, online gaming can even open up careers in streaming gameplay or e-sports events.

While online gaming does provide these opportunities, like all forms of social media, it can expose young people  to a number of risks:

Inappropriate content

Children and parents may not always be aware that age restrictions apply to certain games due to the violent/sexual content they contain, as well as their ability to connect children with strangers. With this in mind, it’s  important parents take age restrictions seriously.  Make parents aware of the PEGI age rating system (share our article on our parents website) and discuss this with young people too.

Opportunities to make in-game purchases and engage in skins betting

No doubt you’ve seen the news stories of young people spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on in-game purchases or heard the concerns about young people becoming addicted to gambling by  trading virtual items (known as ‘skins’). While this is rare, young people need to understand the risks of gambling in these environments (known as skin gambling sites) and that they are illegal. Share these two Parent Info articles with parents on skins gambling (including support for parents who suspect their child might be skin gambling) and managing money in a digital world.

Inappropriate conduct and contact

Young people engaging in online multiplayer games may be at risk of hearing offensive language, experiencing cyberbullying, or being contacted by an adult offender seeking to harm them. It’s important to explore what inappropriate contact looks like, how to respond and who to report it too. Signpost children to Childline for support on bullying in games, and use the resources below to develop the skills and confidence in children  to respond to inappropriate contact.

1. Jessie & Friends

Work with under 7s? We know that children often start gaming online from a young age. Episode 3 of the three-part Jessie & Friends series explores the opportunities and risks of the online gaming world and helps children to:

  • Understand the importance of keeping personal information safe
  • Identify and respond safely to manipulative behaviour
  • Know how to seek help from an adult they trust

Download the episode and accompanying resource pack from our website. The resource has been awarded the PSHE Association Quality Mark, demonstrating that it supports safe and effective teaching practice.

2. Play Like Share and Band Runner

As a part of the grooming process, an offender may use in-game gifts or other prizes to encourage young people to trust them or as leverage to persuade them to do something such as moving to a private platform to chat or taking an indecent image of themselves.

You can help young people aged 8-10 to identify these ‘too good to be true’ offers and other manipulative tactics with our updated Play Like Share animated series and resource pack. Play Like Share has also been awarded the PSHE Association Quality Mark.

The resource will also give them the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to respond safely if they think someone is being manipulative or coercive, and get help if they need it.

Our fun Band Runner game and website can also be used by young people in your setting, or with parents and carers at home, to find out more about how to safely play games online.

3. Thinkuknow website: online gaming advice for teens

The teens you work with can get open and honest advice on how to stay safe when gaming on our 11-13 and 14+ websites.

Use our ‘Gaming’ and ‘Online gaming: tips for playing safe’ articles as an opportunity to discuss:

  • The tactics an offender might use
  • How to keep personal information safe
  • Who to speak to if they are concerned about anyone making them feel uncomfortable
  • How to report or block gamers in games, and reporting to CEOP if they’re worried about  online sexual abuse or the way someone has been communicating with  them online

Looking to stay up to date with latest games?

The best sources of information are young people themselves. Take an interest in what they do online and talk about the games they play. You could always run polls or create questionnaires to find out what’s popular.

You can also find further guidance on popular games in NSPCC and 02’s Net Aware guides or contact the Professionals Online Safety Helpline.