If you have a child aged between 8 and 13 years, you will know the challenges of managing their online gaming. I know from my own experience how difficult it is to get my son off his Xbox. Many of us will have tried various different approaches from enticements to threats to try to limit their time gaming.
We all worry about children being online so much, but we do very little to find out what the appeal is. We hear them chat away about Skins, V-Bucks and Screamers and we switch off, thinking it sounds like a foreign language. A few months ago, I decided to take more interest in what my son was doing whilst gaming and I have been surprised. My perception, like most people’s, was that gaming is not sociable and is removed from the real world, but I found a very different story. So, I would like to encourage you to do the same – take the time to listen to the conversations young people have whilst gaming. I think like me, you would change your views.
I know that, like everything in life, it needs to be done in moderation, but gaming is sociable and very interactive. During their games young people are talking about daily events, football, playing out, what they did last night and also what their strategy is to win the game- working together to beat the competition.
A few days ago, I was talking with a couple of non-gamers (middle aged people) and their argument was that gaming isn’t in the real world. I asked them, “What is the different between speaking through a headset and a mic to communicating by telephone. The truth is, there is none. Their other criticism was that gaming is in an imaginary world, again not real. Yes, I agreed, but we don’t have a problem with children reading imaginary stories or playing imaginary games away from the screen, so why should that be demonised on-screen? I’m not advocating endless hours of game play, but I do think we need to both recognise the appeal of gaming to young people and remember the same arguments we had with our parents when we were young about watching TV. I remember my Dad got so fed up with me and my siblings watching television that he put a meter on it.
I do know gaming is very addictive; I also know that there are risks. Our job is to teach young people how to manage their screen time and to be aware of the potential risks. They don’t want a list of do’s and don’ts but the how and why. We should have conversations with them around “new people online” and self-management. (I suggest using the words new people online rather than stranger danger, as children will often not perceive people they have been gaming with as strangers). Parents need to put boundaries in place. Use the tools that are built in to the devices. There are time limits that you can set, and yes, the child might well go a bit nuts, but if you take the time to have a conversation in advance and agree some sensible time limits, then it will be much easier.
We all need to educate ourselves, especially if you are teaching online safety in your school. Why not take part and try to understand what children are doing instead of switching off, because you don’t understand it. You might even enjoy it! Talk to students about staying in a group and not going off and playing with gamers that they do not know in the real world. On our YouTube channel I have my 12-year-old son talking about all the different aspects of Fortnite. Why not show your class or watch yourself and see what’s involved?
The best advice I can give, is that children and young adults must always have a safe place where they feel they can talk openly about their concerns and experiences, even if these might make us uncomfortable. In class is a great place to acknowledge that we all make mistakes and reinforce the importance of asking for help. Not all experiences in life are going to positive, but teachers are some of the trusted adults who are there to help. For older students, who may feel embarrassed to ask for help in a busy classroom, consider instituting a system whereby a pupil could flag up the need for a confidential conversation without alerting others in the class.
We are worry about our children being groomed. You may be aware of the Breck Bednar story. He was a 14-year-old, murdered by an 18-year-old gamer who groomed him. The story is so tragic, but because he was not on any list, or register for being at high risk and came from a lovely middle-class family in a middle-class area, it was not taken seriously. When children are being groomed, it can happen to any person, from any walk of life.
Watch out for ALL children, not just the ones that appear vulnerable.
Have you attended one of our webinars yet? These are FREE of charge and will take approximately 30 minutes and will cover the areas listed here:
February 25th at 8.30am – Online Gaming
March 25th at 8.30am Copyright
April 2nd at 4pm – Safeguarding and your responsibility with My Concern.
April 3rd at 4pm – Radicalisation with Sean Arbutnot, Prevent specialist.
Did you know we are offering a free 2-week trial? Just follow this link