Games can be fun and sometimes educational. They can even offer children the chance to enter worlds that only exist online. Increasingly many children and young people are online gamers.

One way children can game online is in a ‘virtual online world’. This is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. These avatars are characters that represent the user in the virtual world. Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.

Unless the gamer knows the people they are gaming with, there is no way for them to know exactly who they are playing with. These sorts of games can give adults access to make friends with children and open up opportunity for grooming. It is safest to play the game along with your child to establish its content and assess any possible risks.

Keeping your child safe whilst gaming

  • When accessing online sites, read the site’s privacy policy to learn how it will use and protect children’s information. No privacy policy? Play elsewhere. 
  • Remind your child to keep personal information a secret. Tell them never to share personal information about themselves or their family with other players, such as their real name, email or home address, age, gender, pictures, and the like.
  • Get your child to protect game accounts with strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters (longer is better) and include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Learn how to create them. Eg. M355aG3s.
  • Help your child make up a safe gamer name. Their screen names and gamer tags (such as Kinect ID) should not reveal anything personal, be suggestive, or make children easy to locate.
  • If your child plays with someone who is hostile, pressures them for personal information, or sends disturbing communications, they should, block them and tell a trusted adult.
  • Help your child to know how to report objectionable content and behavior. Find out how the game service monitors players and responds to abuse. Xbox LIVE, for example, helps gamers protect their identities and report using ‘File a Complaint’ option.
  • Encourage your child to play fair and to treat fellow gamers the way they themselves would like to be treated.
  • Teach your child to never meet an online “friend” face to face.
  • Read and understand the ratings for the games that your child is playing. Various game sites have multiple games with a variety of different ratings, check the ins and outs.The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings provide concise and objective information about the content in video games and apps you can make informed choices. Check out