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Parents Warned About Online Gaming

According to new research, online gaming is now more popular than social networking among nine to 16 year olds.

Eight out of 10 preferred playing games over the internet – whether through a PC or console – to posting their status or sending a tweet.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter both have guidelines which state youngsters under the age of 13 should not be using them.

But to mark Safer Internet Day earlier this week, the Safer Internet Centre is highlighting the concerns around online gaming so parents can keep a better eye on their children.

Multiplayer online gaming can be accessed through the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and the DS handheld, as well as a PC or Mac home computer.

And while many mums, dads, grandparents and guardians understand the risks of internet safety, they don’t necessarily think to apply the same rules used to counter those dangers to multiplayer gaming with virtual friends around the world.

The Safer Internet Centre warns children can still face potential risks such as contact with strangers and exposure to inappropriate material in this environment.

Spokesman Will Gardner explained: “This is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness about using new technology safely and responsibly.

“This year we are raising the issue of online games. The same potential risks for children that we associate with internet use apply to games, and the message we are giving out to parents and carers, and to young people, is to know and remember the key internet safety messages when playing games.”

Top tips for parents

  • Engage with the gaming environment and understand gaming
  • Finding out what your children like and the activities they undertake
  • Talk to your children about the types of games they are playing
  • Ask who they are playing with
  • Find out whether they are chatting as part of the game
  • Check whether they are using a webcam as part of the game
  • Remember the same safety rules for surfing the net apply to playing games
  • Set the parental controls on games consoles to block adult material
  • Keep the PC or Mac in a family room to monitor use

Be S.M.A.R.T.

The Centre adds parents should familiarise themselves with the SMART rules and ensure their children understand them too. They are:

S – SAFE Do not give out personal information when chatting or posting online. Personal information includes your email address, phone number and password.

M – MEETING  Meeting someone one has only been in touch with online can be dangerous.

A – ACCEPTING Accepting emails, IM messages, or opening files, pictures or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems – they may contain viruses or nasty messages!

R – RELIABLE Someone online might lie about who they are and information on the internet may not be true. Always check information with other websites, books or someone who knows. If you like chatting online, it’s best to only chat to their real world friends and family

T – TELL Tell your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

Safer Internet Day, which took place on Tuesday, is now in its 8th year, and is celebrated in over 65 countries. You can find out more at

To mark the day, charity Kidscape questioned more than 2,000 youngsters about their online lives. It found 60% of 11-18s in England, Scotland and Wales had lied about their age to a stranger they met online. One in two also lied about their personal details on the internet, suggesting many young people adopt a different identity online. And more than half admitted they don’t always tell their parents the truth about what they do online.

For more information about online safety for parents and young people, see, a website from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.