Children are being groomed every day via gaming apps

Children are being groomed every day via gaming apps and I really don’t think we have a real understanding of exactly how bad the figures are.  We already know that there is an increase in grooming and this is just from the children that have come forward.
Online Gaming is one of the areas that so many parents do not understand and, perhaps for that reason, choose to ignore.  Until a few years ago, I myself fell into that category.  I was sitting with my son while was playing a game via the Game Centre on MY iPhone.  Out of the blue, he said that a 25-year-old man who tried to contact him via a game, lived within 5 miles of our own house.  I felt physically sick.  I went into the Game Centre and realised that I had not checked the privacy settings of the app.  The function for nearby players to connect with my son was clicked on to “yes”.  I could blame the gaming company, (why on earth would you have this feature when children are playing the games?), but in fact, it was my responsibility as a parent to take the time and check these settings.  It is all too easy to blame others.
So many individuals have no concept of what information is being shared whilst gaming or even whether it is online or not.  Do you know what the average age of a gamer is?  Most people guess around 8-12 years, but the average is 31 years old.  So, what is perceived as like a children’s playground is, in reality, more like an arcade with a bunch of adults, predominantly male.
We need to sit with our children, watch them play or even join in, in the same way as reading a book, and be part of their online lives.  Gaming is a normal part of every-day life for them and we need to acknowledge this and give them guidance.  We need to talk about who they are playing with and about grooming, using appropriate language and in a way that empowers them rather than frightening them.  Terms like Stranger Danger can be misleading when teaching children about online risks.  People they meet through gaming online are not perceived as strangers.  Those with intent to groom are adept at identifying vulnerabilities and exploiting them to come across as a person who cares, a friend and someone they can trust.  It happens over time, so that they feel like a friend not a stranger.
Therefore, as a life skill we should be talking about grooming to children, encouraging them to play games only with friends they know in real life, to be wary of people they don’t know who try to befriend them, how to recognise when someone is flattering them and to question their motives, not to be afraid of unfriending, ignoring and turning off their microphone.  Encourage your children to discuss anything they feel uncomfortable about with you and reassure them that you won’t be angry if they make a mistake, that their safety is the most important thing to you.
It is so frustrating that game creators, just like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, want to create communities and want people connecting with each other, so they resist calls for privacy settings to default to private instead of public.  This would be such a simple way to keep our children safer and avoid the situation my son found himself in.  But money always seems to trump safety, so it is down to us to be vigilant and really understand what our children are doing online.
Gooseberry Parent – We have just released a new resource for parents.  It is all about the online game called Fortnite.  We also have the parent workshops that are FREE via a webinar.  Very popular and some fantastic feedback.
Gooseberry Alert
This month’s Gooseberry Alert focusses on ‘Online Gaming’, a great topic to share with your parents.  If you haven’t registered for this service already, please do.  It is free of charge just click here
GSchool Online Safety
Please login to Gooseberry Guru and you will find the new parent resource about the game Fortnite.  Please feel free to share with your parents.  It gives parents a real understanding of what the game is and how to manage it.  Click Here to register your school free of charge
Online Safety – Parent Webinar – 10th May 2018 at 8pm
Parent Online Safety Workshop
One of my biggest passions is to help parents understand what their children are accessing online.  I also understand how hard it is to get parents to attend t
he workshops you put on.  You always get the parents you don’t want and never get the ones you do want.   This is a webinar and lasts a maximum of 90 minutes.  Please copy and paste this link and share with your parents and invite them to attend.  It is free and there is no sales pitch, just pure information and updates on the latest apps.
If your school is within a 90 minute journey of RG27 9HD, I will be happy to come and present one for you.  I would also help train a member of staff up to be a Gooseberry Guru.
Do you really want to understand what is going on online and how to manage your own settings within the most popular social media platforms?
Our sessions will provide you with the opportunity to reflect upon and question your own knowledge and give you the help and advice you need when talking to Parents and Students.  It is free of charge just sign up here

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