Thanks to technology, we do not have to be professional football players to play football, or train as a professional dancer. We can just indulge in the World Cup game or learn a new dance routine all in the comfort of our living room or bedroom. Most young people have consoles such as Xbox, Wii or PlayStation that enables them to interact with other players and play games with friends – and complete strangers.
Not only can they access games on their computer, they are able to download, either free of charge or for a small fee, games onto Smartphones or tablets. It is very easy to spend many hours playing games. As a person strives to achieve a higher level in the game, so they become addictive.
There are risks associated with interacting with other players they do not know:
- There is the possibility that the person they are speaking to are not who they say they are
- They could be exposed to hearing bad language, seeing inappropriate content and being bullied and threatened.
Top Tips on Gaming safely
- Restrict access according to age classification
- Never let your child play with someone that they do not know offline
- Make them aware of how dangerous it is give personal details such as your address or school to someone they do not know
- Always monitor what games are being played as it is possible for young people to swap and lend each other games that are meant for an older audience
- Set clear rules regarding time spent on playing games
- Ensure you use the Parental Control settings (look this up on PEGI website)
- Take seriously any concerns young people raise with you about something that may have been said to them by another player
- Watch for changes in behaviour in your child – if they are being bullied playing games with other players, they will display signs of being affected by bullying behaviour as outlined in the parents section of www.bulliesout.com
It is all too easy to get engrossed in online games such as Roblox and Minecraft (more information below). Games played in the virtual world offer young people an escape from the real world and create a world that in the physical world would be out of bounds or impossible to explore. Identities can be altered so you can never be sure if the person you are playing online with is who they say they are.
Young people also play games that are meant for an older age group and games with violent content that are classified for over 18’s. The classification is clearly stated on the packaging but this is often ignored – yet it is there for a reason. The Pan American Gaming Information (PEGI) label appears on all computer and video games indicating the age level of the game you are purchasing and provides an indication of the suitability of the content of the game in terms of safeguarding and protecting younger players.
- PEGI 3 – Considered suitable for all age groups
- PEGI 7 – Game content similar to level 3 but with sounds and frightening scenes that may be considered scary for younger children
- PEGI 12 – Contains violence of a slightly more graphic nature but through a fantasy character or depicting non-graphic violence towards a character with human-looking characteristics. It may also contain slight nudity scenes and contain mild bad language
- PEGI 16 – Games with this rating contain depictions of violence or sexual activity and have bad language which would be deemed unsuitable for young people below 16 to be exposed to. The use of drugs, cigarettes and activities of a criminal nature would also be present in games rated as 16
- PEGI 18 – Due to the gross level of violence in this rating category, adult viewing is recommended and deemed not suitable for younger people as the depictions of violence could potentially cause revulsion to the player, especially if they are younger than the age specified.
Also included on the gaming packaging are descriptors which are symbols such as bad language, drugs, gambling, and violence give an indication of what is included in the content of the game. More information on PEGI labels can be found at www.pegi.info.
Most games that young people are playing are above their age level and intended for an older audience who can not only expose them to bad language, sex scenes and violence but also exposes them to older people who assume that the person they are playing with is the correct age as described on the games labelling. This has the potential to introduce young people to older adults who are far more experienced in playing games than they are and places them at risk of being groomed or bullied and due to lack of experience, they may get involved in a situation that they do not know how to get out of. Levels of games are set for a reason and it is advisable to take note of them in order to safeguard young people.