Parents should play online video games with children, says online safety group

Joanna Whitehead

Parents should play online games with their children to better understand the risks and benefits this entails, according to an online safety group.

New research published by online safety experts Internet Matters on Monday reveals that most parents do not feel confident dealing with the issues surrounding online gaming, despite more than three-quarters of children playing online video games.

Their findings indicate that more than half of parents (55 per cent) worry that strangers will approach their children via online gaming platforms, while more than a third (38 per cent) are unsure who their children are playing with online.

The report, titled Parenting Generation Game, encourages parents to understand the benefits that gaming can offer, with 62 per cent of those polled acknowledging that playing online games can help develop a child’s problem solving skills.

In light of the findings, the London-based, non-profit organisation has produced a series of online resources for parents to provide them with information about the advantages and disadvantages of online gaming – and encourages them to join in with their children.

The online guidance also includes suggestions for video games suitable for all the family to play.

Andy Robertson, Internet Matters’ gaming expert, added that the range of games on offer is huge.

Robertson stated that by getting involved with online gaming with children, parents will be able to “help capitalise on the benefits” and “celebrate” their gaming successes.

Internet Matters chief executive Carolyn Bunting said that parents who regularly get involved with their children's activities online are "better placed to lead them through some of the issues they may face.

“We’re encouraging parents to do something that may well go against their nature and have a go – get involved. With an overwhelming majority of children playing online games now, it has become part and parcel of growing up in the digital age.”

Despite the new initiative, concerns have been raised that video games can be addictive, with an onus placed on developers to do more to protect users, especially young people.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into addictive technologies, which intends to look at video games and their usage of loot boxes: paid-for packs of in-game items which some believe could be used as a gateway into gambling for young people.

The news comes after new research revealed that one in four children have experienced a form of online abuse in the past 12 months.

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, conducted a study with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to identify concerns the nation has about using the Internet.

Their findings, which were published in Ofcom’s first annual Online Nation report in May, showed that 23 per cent of children have been cyberbullied in the last year, while 39 per cent have been subjected to offensive language online.