Gaming on smartphones and tablets – Childnet’s advice for parents and carers

Childnet have shared their advice with us on gaming on smartphones and tablets and how as a parent you can protect your children.

Childnet is a UK charity that delivers education, policy and youth participation activities to help make the internet a great and safe place for children and young people.

Ofcom’s findings show that young people are now more likely than ever to own a smartphone (41% of 5-15 year olds) while the popularity of tablets continues to grow.

Games such as Pokémon Go and Minecraft – pocket addition are very popular but bring with them some new challenges.

In this blog we explore the wide variety of games available on smartphones and tablets and what this all means as parents and carers.

Free games
A lot of apps are free to download. Whilst there will be no cost to download the game, there may be advertising or a chance to pay money during game play to progress through the levels more quickly or easily.

Paid-for apps
Some apps cost you money to buy. The price for these can typically range from 99p to over £5. Although you have paid to download the app, there is still the chance that there will be other purchases you can make during the game.

Online
More than half of all 8-15s have played a game online. Most games now have an online element to them, allowing players to play against others, join teams and communicate.

Multiplayer
Multiplayer games appeal to many young people. These games provide the chance to play against their friends or other people online. Multiplayer games often have a chat feature within them, and 10% of 8-11s and 23% of 12-15s say they use this feature to chat to people they only know through the game. Whilst this function is often used to talk about tactics within the game, there may be potential to communicate with strangers.

Advice for children who are playing online games

  1. Keep personal information safe
    Make sure your child knows not to share personal information when gaming online. This includes your full name, mobile phone number and address. Sharing this type of information could make you vulnerable.
  2. Block and report
    Your child can block or report anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable in a game. Our guidance on how to report and block can help you with this.
  3. Think before you click
    Remind your child that in-game purchases can cost real money and that they should check with you before buying anything.
  4. Tell an adult
    Encourage your child to tell you if anything ever worries or upsets them online.

Advice for parents and carers

  1. Have an open and honest conversation
    It’s important that your child feels able to talk to you about any issues they may be having online. We have some conversation starters that can help you start a discussion with your family about their time online.
  2. Know about the games they’re using
    If you’re not sure what they are playing, ask them to show you and have a go yourself. Playing the game will give you an insight into why they enjoy it and importantly, how to report and block any issues.
  3. Create a family agreement
    A family agreement is a great way to start a conversation with your whole family about how to behave in a positive way when online at home, at school or at a friend’s house. Our family agreement advice provides a list of things to consider when creating a family agreement and how to put it into practice.
  4. Set up parental controls
    Most smartphones and tablets offer free parental control settings. These can help restrict access to apps based on age-ratings, prevent in-app purchases, or disable multiplayer games or chat functions. See our Parents’ Guide for Technology for more advice.
  5. Look at the guidance
    We recently updated our Online Gaming Guidance for Parents to showcase some new technology as well as adding even more information about online gaming.

If you need help deciding if a game or app is suitable for your child to play, the Net Aware site can help. The website includes reviews from parents and young people so you can see perspectives from people who have played the game.

Common Sense Media offer a library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.

askaboutgames.com is a website that answers questions parents and players have about video game age ratings and provides advice on how to play games responsibly, and get the most out of them for their family.

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