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Online Safety: The Youngsters' Perspective

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Here at AskAboutGames, we're often sharing advice on how to make gaming a positive part of your family's life.

We're informed by the games industry, attending events, our own experience covering games for families, and insight from groups like games industry trade body Ukie and UK games age rating group The VSC.

What we aren't, however, is young people. OK; we're nowhere near claiming our pensions yet, but our experience is only half the perspective. Because if you're going to interact with younger members of your family in an attempt tp safeguard them with regard to online gaming communities they are involved in, understanding their perspective is important.

That, in part, was the spirit that motivated the Digital Schoolhouse initiative to conduct and publish their new report; Online Safety: A Pupil's Perspective. The report – which you can learn more about and see in full here – surveyed 2304 students aged between 9 and 18 years old. The idea was to understand their perspectives. Do they feel safe online? Do they care? Are they aware of the common ways to protect themselves in online games? Are schools providing them with the right information?

Encouragingly, the key findings of the report showed that most young people are very savvy to the threats and challenges of online safety; an important factor when online games like fortnite have become quite so popular. Here they are, as shared by Digital Schoolhouse in their recent blog post:

• 90% of pupils recognised that e-safety (meaning safety online) is an issue of importance

• Only 2% of pupils said they had no confidence at all in their own ability to stay safe

• 77% of pupils know where to find information on how to play games safely and responsibly

• 80% of students who play games online know where to find information on playing safely and responsibly, compared to 59% of those that don’t play games online

• Only 19% of students said that their parents set limits about their time spent online and actually enforced it. 35% of students said there were no limits at all

• 63% of parents talk to their children about staying safe online

In general, the numbers point to youngsters being aware of their safety, its importance, and how and where they can learn about online safety. It would, however, be irresponsible to gloss over the other side of the story. While it is great that 98% of pupils have confidence in their ability to stay safe online, the 2% that don't clearly need support.  And there are 10% of children that feel online safety is not important; that group clearly needs informing.

The solution to those challenges is education, meaning helping youngsters, parents and the games industry all learn how to keep children safer. That's an effort the finding of the report hope to inspire, in schools, through resources like AskAboutGames, and within the industry.

The main message here for parents, though, is that our children are likely to be as keen to stay safe online as we are keen for them to do so. That does mean the door is open for parents and guardians to talk to their children about gaming and online safety; we are almost all on the same side here, and the research suggests children are open minded to hearing advice on staying safe online. That should make it easier for you to talk to your youngsters about the gaming they are doing online. And as ever our advice is that you start that conversation as an enthusiastic chat about their love of gaming, rather than leaving it until there's a potential problem. Starting the conversation as a general one with no particular aim to influence their online gaming will help a great deal if and when a more serious conversation is needed.

But how can you as parent or guardians make sure that when you do talk with your children, you are informed and up to date?

Over the coming weeks we'll be spotlighting some of the best resources to help your understanding of online safety and gaming in your home.

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Will Freeman