Today we are kicking off ‘Online Safeguarding Challenges’ week with ‘GAMING’ whereby Alan will be discussing the current issues at hand and what parents/teachers/carers can do to keep children safe.
After the tumultuous year that has been 2020 and the move to online teaching for schools where are we with online safety? Teachers have adapted fantastically to the use of live streaming and video to ensure every child is still receiving an education. Some have adapted brilliantly but for others the struggle is real. Advice is regularly supplied and the latest for schools and Colleges can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-your-remote-education-provision .
In this rush towards live streaming it is important to keep pace with other elements of the online world like gaming, especially relating to children and young people and consider its safety. Gaming is now a larger industry than film and music combined and in 2019 was estimated to be worth £3.68 billion pounds. There can be no doubt that the gaming industry will have been impacted by Covid19 with developers working remotely. It is unlikely however to slow the pace of change much. Changes include the growth of VR/AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) and gradual lowering of cost, Esports and online competitive gaming and the impending growth of the new 5G signals on phones etc allowing clearer pictures and quicker transmission. Keeping pace is a challenge.
So how have children adapted to home learning and how have their gaming habits changed if at all? Role playing games like ‘Fortnite’ (350 million players worldwide) are still hugely popular as are the staples like Minecraft and Roblox for younger players. The amount and type of games available now are huge and the time spent playing them may have increased during lockdown.
The overall UK gaming population has increased by 63% during lockdown, according to a new report from market research agency Opinium. The reports suggests that spending on gaming has also increased, as the UK spent a third (33%) more during lockdown, with women accounting for a a 55% increase in spending during the period. The report identifies “Covideogamers” – people who have only started gaming during lockdown – now make up 18% of the gaming population. Business Cloud.
Some new games have risen to the fore. Different games like ‘Fall Guys’ (If you are old enough think it’s a knockout) and ‘Among us’ a strategy/communications game around quiet assassins in the game and, as a team trying to find them before everyone is killed. Of course FIFA, Call of duty and lots of other stalwarts continue to evolve as do rising numbers of new and exciting games.
What then for teachers and parents considering the issues around screen time/compulsion/addiction and talking to strangers and all the other worry points that challenge adults when considering children and gaming? Often it is the fear of technology and our lack of knowledge of the gaming world that can cause a hesitance or lack of understanding on how to engage with children on the issues.
Remember ‘it is the behaviour not the technology’ that parents and professionals need to consider when they are concerned about online safety. As adults most of us possess many parenting/teaching skills that we apply every day with our young children. It is often just adjusting these skills and adapting them to the online subjects that can help. These subjects more that often reflect the real-life issues, bullying, sexuality, addiction and self-image etc that children can face.
A small but potentially growing portion of the young people cohort can have issues around problematical gaming or gambling online that can affect their lives. Even if you are a little concerned and just need some reassurance or advice a great site to visit for this is https://www.ygam.org/ The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) is a national charity with a social purpose to inform, educate, safeguard and build digital resilience amongst young and vulnerable people. Helping them to make informed decisions and understand the consequences around gambling and gaming.
Engaging, discussing, reassuring and helping to protect young people with their online lives is easier than you may think. To learn more about where gaming fits along with lots of other issues and how to deal with them please look for ‘Online safety’ on the Associates website to book a training session with a specialist in this area. You will be given the chance to discuss your concerns and requirements with the professional before the online training session.
Alan Earl – SAFE Ltd. Associate
8th February 2021
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