Gaming

The Issue

Online gaming has become increasingly popular with children and adults of all ages and genders in recent years. There is a vast array of game-types available online ranging from massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) (an online game with large numbers of players, often playing in a common open world, enabling players to cooperate and compete with each other) to digital arcades and sports games. Gaming has been shown to have positive effects on social skills and problem solving, but it is not an activity completely without risks.

It can be hard for adults to supervise online gaming. There are thousands of online games and apps, making it hard to know exactly what children are playing. In addition, children can play from anywhere thanks to mobile gaming devices, smartphones and tablets. Games can also have confusing or inappropriate content for children. Some have adult language or are violent or sexual. Others have advertisements that let children make purchases without parental authorization.

Many online games have features that allow players to talk or IM with each other. Some of these players may:

  • Gather sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers by scamming children or hacking directly into their accounts.
  • Engage in the online enticement of children by having sexual conversations, request sexual images or, more rarely, ask children to meet offline. They may even try to get children to share sexual images by sharing their own images first. 

By the Numbers

72%

of teens, both male and female (ages 13-17) play video games.1

More than half

of those teens said they have made new friends online 

NCMEC analysis of CyberTipline reports has found that gaming platforms are more often used in the online enticement of young boys than any other group of children.2

How to Talk About It

Use these tips to help children game more safely online.

Ask

  • What are your favorite games right now? Would you show me how they’re played? Could I play with you?
  • Have you ever been cyberbullied while gaming? What did you do?
  • Do you know what information is OK to share about yourself while gaming?
  • Who do you play online games with?  What are their usernames?
  • Has anyone talked about sex while you were gaming or asked you to send pictures of yourself?
  • Other than at home, where else do you play online games? Do you play on your phone? At friends’ homes?

Reinforce

  • It is important to play games that are age-appropriate. Ratings sites like ESRB.org and CommonSenseMedia.org can help you decide if a game is appropriate.
  • Being truthful about age is important as it often disables features that may put children and risk and enables certain safety protocols to make sure the gaming experience is safer and fun for young users. 
  • Keep personal information private. Remind children not to share information like credit card or phone numbers. 

Recommended Resources

There's nothing wrong with playing to win, but what happens when someone crosses the line between competitor and griefer?

References

[1] Lenhart, A., Smith, A.., Anderson, M., Duggan, M., Perrin, A., “Teens, Technology and Friendships.” Pew Research Center, August, 2015. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/

 [2] http://www.missingkids.org/content/dam/pdfs/ncmec-analysis/Online%20Enticement%20Pre-Travel1.pdf