A parent’s guide to the world of online gaming

As parents, navigating the world of gaming can sometimes feel like exploring uncharted territories. Read on as we navigate through the realm of Discord and Twitch, demystify the difference between console and online games and shed some light on how exactly we can keep our kids safe when it comes to one of their favourite playtime activities. There are so many questions that parents have: Is it OK for kids to play online games? What age is appropriate for online gaming? Is gaming good for 12 year olds? Or ‘How do I keep my kids safe while gaming online? In the article below we aim to lift the veil on the world of gaming and in turn dispel some of the doubts and trepidation that come along with it.

What’s the difference between online games and console games?

It’s important to note which gaming style your child partakes in – console or online. Console gaming, put simply, involves a gaming console, i.e. an Xbox, a PlayStation, a Nintendo Switch, ect. These result in a self-contained gaming experience, and while they have the capacity for online integration, console games are usually played offline or with friends in the same room.

Meanwhile, online games are played using the internet, on a PC, laptop, or mobile phone, extending the playing field and allowing your child to connect and compete with players instantly, from all over the world. This brings both exciting opportunities for social interaction and potential concerns about online safety.

Are there risks involved in online gaming?

One of the main things to worry about when it comes to your child’s safety while gaming online, is the realm of online interactions, where players connect globally and often, anonymously. While it’s possible to create real friendships and develop teamwork, there’s also the risk that children may be exposed to unpredictable, explicit or inappropriate conversations. The anonymity of the internet also means that you can’t guarantee who your child is connecting with.

Another big concern is the challenge of managing in-game purchases and microtransactions which can rack up pretty quickly and easily! Want to add a special piece of armour to your avatar’s attire? Looking to upgrade your weapon inventory? In need of extra lives? These are all things that an online game can charge you for and if your child isn’t aware that these items are obtainable via real money, as opposed to in-game currency, they might get a bit spendy…

Discord: What is it?

Think of it as a virtual clubhouse where gamers gather to chat, strategise, and share their gaming conquests. This communication platform is more than just a chat box though; it allows users to create servers, akin to private chat rooms, fostering a sense of community.

Is Discord safe for kids?

While Discord is a popular hub for gamers to connect and coordinate during play, it's essential for parents to understand the platform's potential risks. Keep an eye out for privacy settings and ensure your child is aware of the importance of responsible online interactions. With the right knowledge, and when it is age appropriate, Discord can be a tool for socialising within the gaming community while maintaining a secure digital environment for your child.

Twitch: What is it?

Twitch is the go-to livestreaming platform where gamers and content creators congregate to bring their gameplay to life in real-time. Gamers can showcase their skills, share tips and engage with a live virtual audience. It’s not just a one-way street either – viewers can immerse themselves in the action by chatting with the gamers and fellow viewers, creating a lively community where you get to be an active part of the experience.

Is Twitch safe for kids?

While Twitch provides an exciting space for gaming enthusiasts, parents should be aware of potential risks, such as mature content or chat interactions. Staying involved in your child's Twitch experience, understanding the platform's features, and setting appropriate viewing guidelines can ensure this livestreaming platform is a safer and more enjoyable space for your young gamers.

Top tips on how to keep your child safe while gaming

●       Explore Parental Controls: Most gaming platforms offer parental control features. Take advantage of these settings to limit game time, control in-app purchases, and manage online interactions.

●       Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on the games your child is playing. Understanding the content allows you to make informed decisions about what is appropriate for them.

●       Secure Personal Information: Remind your child never to share personal information, such as their real name, address, or school, while gaming. After all, online safety extends beyond the gaming world!

●       Create a Safe Gaming Environment: Set up the gaming area in a communal space, allowing you to keep an eye on their activities. This not only enhances safety but also provides opportunities for shared gaming experiences.

●       Lead by Example: Demonstrate responsible screen time habits yourself. When your child sees you managing your digital activities responsibly, they’re more likely to adopt similar behaviours.

Whether they’re obsessing over the latest game, tuning in for a livestream on Twitch, or even just surfing the web, keeping your little ones safe in the online landscape is a feat! With the help of Virgin Media’s broadband parental control settings, keeping an eye on the kids’ digital escapades is a little bit easier. So, power up on knowledge, set those boundaries and let the playtime commence!