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Early Years Children And Safe Online Gaming

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For new parents and carers, it can seem like there is a bewildering array of technological opportunities for their Early Years children. The fast-moving and diverse nature of the online world, along with concerns over pitfalls, can result in a paralysis of parenting decisions.

However, with the advice and guidance we provide at AskAboutGames, carers and parents can become confident in making informed decisions that not only ensure their children are safe from potential dangers, but are equipped with skills and attitudes to flourish in their digital future.

The biggest recent change to be aware of is that online safety is no longer just about social media or video sharing platforms for children. Video games are an integral part of children's online world and offer amazing ways for them to connect and interact with each other.

OFCOM's 2018 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report offers a really useful view into the lives of children in the UK. It highlights that video games are a key part of this landscape. While only 1% of 3-4's in the study had a social media profile, 37% of the age group played online games.

It's therefore really important that parents understand the video games their children play, participate in them together and play a role to guide which games their family are playing. The advice on AskAboutGames enables them to access the right tools to ensure a safe experience that avoids surprises. It also ensures that the appropriate age restrictions required to create accounts for online video games are adhered to.

Before more detailed advice, here are some general pointers:

  • Keep gaming technology in shared family spaces rather than bedrooms.
  • Explore and play games together to develop open conversations about online play.
  • Spend time researching and discovering games you want your child to play.
  • Setup family settings on technology before your child starts using it.
  • Set passwords on your devices and credit cards transactions.
  • Get involved in gaming while they are young, to create a healthy dialogue for when they are older.

The PEGI ratings offer a great starting point for parents wanting to know more about the games their children are playing. The rating is displayed on the game box or online storefront, and more information can be found on the VSC site and in our parent's guides to games like Roblox.

Our parent guides each suggest alternative younger rated games for parents and carers if the game in question is not appropriate. This is one way for parents and carers to play a role in broadening the diet of games children play. Another route to discovering the breadth of imaginative, educational and creative experiences is through the examples of other families, game awards and editorial suggestions on the site's Amazing Games section.

Family settings and controls in video game platforms then make it easy for parents and carers to ensure appropriate games are played, control what online interactions are possible and set automatic limits on the amount of time played each day. Although setting this up can sound complicated, by following the simple instructions parents and carers can solve many potential problems in one go.

As children get older, video games offer a wide range of developmental and educational benefits. Along with this, they can also lead to a wide range of careers in the industry from competing at a professional level in eSports, to developing games themselves. The UK is a great place to get into the industry. A recent British Film Industry report found that in 2016, the UK games industry provided 47,620 FTE jobs and contributed £2.87bn in Gross Value Added to the UK economy.

With this advice in hand, carers and parents are well positioned to make informed choices about technology and children. Video games offer a crucial opportunity for them to play together and learn the skills they need to thrive in a digital future.

If you have any questions about Early Years children and video games, please comment below or ask our editor directly.

Further Reading
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Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.