Online Gaming

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Our top tips!

  • Check the age rating
    Before you play a game online, make sure it is suitable for people of your age. This will ensure it isn’t inappropriate or harmful for you.
  • Avoid buying in-game extras
    Purchases within games are usually of little use to you but can quickly add up to a lot of money. It can also incentivise gambling habits.
  • Keep taking breaks regularly
    It is not healthy for you to pay continuously for long periods of time – make sure you take time to eat well, get outside and get enough sleep.
  • Do not share your personal information with others
    You can never know whether the people you interact with online are really who they say they are.
  • Mute, block and ignore people who disturb you
    It can be easier for bullies to target people online rather than in person. If someone is threatening you or making you feel uncomfortable,  end contact with them and report them if you can.

What is online gaming?

Everyone likes to play games and there are many different kinds: the differences lay in how the games are played and what they involve. When it comes to online gaming, there are plenty of choices available to you, whether you decide to play casually or competitively.

Online gaming is very similar across different devices and systems, whether you’re using a console like a Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox, a PC, or even a handheld device like the Nintendo Switch. By clicking a button, attaching your headset and switching on your webcam, you can easily connect with millions of people all around the world. However, this doesn’t mean you’re playing with hundreds of people at the same time. While some games do allow you to play with over 50 people at the same time in one game, some may be just a two-player scenario including yourself.

If you participate in online gaming, you can play with or against your friends, strangers, and anyone in between. Usually, you’ll find yourself interacting with these people through sending messages, speaking to them, or simply playing with or against them.

While online gaming can be enjoyable, it also does carry a number of risks. Compared with offline games, online gaming has the potential to be more dangerous if you’re not prepared. This page will introduce you to some of the positives and risks associated with online gaming. If you are worried about how online gaming is impacting on you or have any concerns, you can reach out to our mentors, who can give you more information or advice.

How much does online gaming cost?

Money has always played a part in gaming, and this is also true for online gaming. Initially, you may have only had to pay for the game itself, but the gaming landscape has changed a lot in recent years. For example, a Playstation game may cost £50, but there may be an option to pay extra money for additional benefits. This means that if you want to level-up quickly or unlock a feature, you can buy in-game money for an extra cost.

Another scenario may be for a mobile game where the game is free to download, but again due to frustration in being the best online, you are enticed by the in-app purchases cleverly designed to separate you from your money.

Others use algorithms designed to prevent you from progressing to new levels unless you purchase an upgrade. They rely on your desire for instant gratification in the hope that you will pay money for additional levels or features. Be wary of this and don’t spend money unnecessarily.

What risks are associated with online gaming?

Most of the time, online gaming is enjoyable, challenging and stimulating. However, it is important for you to be aware of the risks so that you can more easily identify when you or those around you are at risk. In order to remain safe and healthy while you are playing online games, make sure you read about the potential issues or dangers that can arise.

If you think that you may be experiencing any negative consequences that can result from online gaming, such as those described here, you should reach out to an adult who you can speak to about it, or contact one of our mentors. They will be able to provide you with advice and help you to ensure that you are in control of your gaming.

Aggressive behaviour and addiction
Some games encourage aggression amongst players, while others rely on your desire for instant gratification so you keep playing. If you don’t limit how much time you spend playing online games, you could end up playing for hours on end without realising. If you struggle to set limits for yourself, try uninstalling or deleting the game – this will minimise harm in the long term.
Wrong values, teaching and influence

Online games expose you to a wide range of information. You may think that this won’t affect you, but it can influence how you think and behave over time. The online sphere operates in a very different way from the real world. Be wary of the things you learn and the people you talk to – not everyone and everything will have the best intentions.

Lower academic performance

Too much of one thing is never good for you, and this applies to gaming too. Spending more time gaming (online or otherwise)  rather than focusing on studies can prevent you from fulfilling your potential. This doesn’t have to be the case: you can manage both well by keeping gaming time short and excelling academically. However, always remember that online gaming won’t help to improve your prospects in the long run.

Negative impact on health

Games are becoming more immersive and so are the pressures to connect with people online. Seeing people who you met online in real life can put your safety at risk: you should avoid meeting up with strangers at all costs.

While playing games, it is also important to take regular breaks. This will help to prevent obesity; postural disorder; muscular disorder; numbness in your hands, elbows or shoulders; and even seizures.

How can you stay safe whilst gaming online?

Tip 1: Use a strong password
Use a password that will be difficult for anyone to guess and is completely unrelated to you – It should not include your name or birthday as these can be guessed more easily. Ensure that you write your passwords down in a safe place that only you have access to. For instance, you could have a safe spot in your home to write it down on a piece of paper. This is much safer and more secure than storing your passwords online or in a file on your computer.

Make sure your passwords as as strong as they can be. The strongest passwords usually use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and sometimes there are requirements for you to include a certain quantity of each. Sometimes, the password text box will pop up with an alert to tell you whether your chosen password is strong or weak.

Tip 2: Be careful with security and software
Most devices (such as your console or laptop) will ask you to update the system so they can fix any issues that could be exploited by a hacker who wants to take advantage of the information and data. Similarly, an update can appear for a particular game when it becomes available. You should make sure the update is legitimate by checking the update details on the official websites – this will help you to know what you are downloading and whether it is authentic.

Avoid the trap of buying games from places or websites that are not from the manufacturers themselves or official third-party sellers. You may find that certain game developers or websites are hacked often – in such cases, avoid using these platforms and never input your personal details as they will not be secure and may be leaked.

Tip 3: Choose an unidentifiable username
When choosing a username for your account, make sure it does not reveal any personal information that people could use to work out your identity. Additionally, when using platforms where your profile information is public, you should avoid adding sensitive personal information that reveals who you are or can be used against you.

Tip 4: Dispose of games correctly
If you’re planning to get rid of a game by any means, you should make sure the game has no information or data about you that the new owner would be able to view, access and use. Ensure this is wiped from the game, the system you play on and any online accounts that you may have. Double-check that no financial information is saved in the game, such as debit card information that you may have used to make a purchase in the past.

Tip 5: Set yourself some rules
Some game manufacturers provide rules and guidelines to read before you play, but adhering to their guidelines is another matter. It is your responsibility to make sure you know everything you need to know about the games you are playing. You can read game reviews before you make a purchase so that you know what to expect, as well as find out about and learn from other players’ experience.

You may also want to reflect on why you are choosing to play a particular game. Some people play online games casually, while others do so competitively. Either of these may allow you to have an enjoyable online gaming process.

It can be easy to become a victim of denial in knowing how much and often you play games online. It could be a good idea to set yourself a limit – for instance, you could limit yourself to one hour per day or five hours a week. This can help to ensure that online games do not stop you from carrying out your daily routine and affect relationships with those around you.

I think I might need some help... what do I do?

If you encounter any issues or concerns when you are playing games online, it is really important that you talk to somebody who can offer you advice and help you to understand what needs to be done. Reach out to our mentors if you are struggling, confused or would like to speak with someone about your experience gaming online.

Get support!
Serious health and safety concerns can arise  from online gaming, so make sure you talk to somebody and get the support you need.
Speak to us

It can feel embarrassing to talk to somebody about issues you face in online gaming. Speaking to someone about your experience can help you to understand a situation or identify when there is a problem that needs to be addressed. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with an adult, you can always talk to our friendly mentors, who can help you out.

Speak to a trusted adult

A trusted adult – whether that is a teacher, your parents or someone from your youth club – can help you out with difficulties you face when gaming online. They can give you advice on how to approach the situation.

Speak to the police

Most instances of cyberbullying are classed as a criminal offence. Someone who is bullying you online may be harassing you or threatening you. Make sure you keep evidence and talk to the police if you need to.

Do online games have age limits?

Different online games can have different age ratings, and these often vary between different countries since each will use a different rating system. Additionally, different online gaming platforms have different methods of rating games. Normally, the age guidance will be displayed clearly on the front of games – this will allow you to identify quickly and easily the ages it is suitable for.

In the UK, games are rated using the PEGI system, as shown, which shows the minimum age group they are suitable for. If you are younger than the age stated on a game, you will not be allowed to purchase it and should also not play it. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as if it contains bad language, drugs, fear, gambling, violence or any other content that could be inappropriate for younger players. You may find that games provide specific information on which aspects make the content inappropriate.

What are the positives of online gaming?

Meet new people

There are endless possibilities for meeting people online. Not everyone you encounter will want to become your friend, but many may want to play with you and share the experience. Don’t put pressure on yourself to talk to people verbally if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable doing so. Equally, it is important that you don’t pressure another person into doing something they don’t want to either.

Enhancing your social skills

Gaming online can feel like an isolating activity depending on what you play and how you play. Some games allow you to communicate with other players via a handset. You can buy devices that alter your voice, changing how you sound to strangers and protecting your safety. Gaming can improve your teamwork and collaboration skills as well as your ability to understand and learn from other people’s behaviour.

Fun as a focus

Some educational games may require your intense focus. However, these should not be taken too seriously. You may find yourself in a situation where you keep failing at a particular task or find that something is not going according to your plan. In this case, you should seek to manage and regulate your emotions. You can do this by learning how to calm yourself and by building resilience, which will help in other areas of life.

Wider skill development

Online gaming can aid memory enhancement, brain speed, concentration, and multi-tasking. There are many different kinds of games with wide-ranging aims, strategies and storylines, so explore all of the genres available. Some games require problem-solving skills or innovative strategies in order to succeed. Improving your focus and perseverance can help you achieve a goal.