Keeping young gamers safe online

9th April 2019

Male gamer with headphones

Gaming can be a great source of fun and enjoyment for young people where they can play on their own, socialise with friends and feel connected to a wider community. Each game comes with its own set of benefits and potential safeguarding risks, so its important to keep up to date with popular and emerging games and understanding their safety features. Rather than just focusing on the games themselves, it’s also worth looking at the websites that they tend to lead young gamers to.

Livestreaming video games is becoming increasingly popular, with a whole sub culture dedicated to watching live videos of other gamers playing. With around 1,000,000,000 monthly views and 1,000,000 broadcasters, Twitch is the most popular video game livestreaming service. Users can watch playbacks of games being played by other people, live stream their own games and chat to other gamers. It has a rating of 13+ and advises that those between 13 years and 18 years should be supervised.

There are no chat filters but individual broadcasters can ban specific words and the bigger channels are more likely to be safer options in this respect. However, the live nature of the site means it can expose young people to highly inappropriate and potentially upsetting content.

There are a few helpful options to be aware of:

  • The chat room can easily be hidden from view

  • Specific users can be muted and blocked

  • Unsuitable content, and the users responsible for it, can be blocked

  • Channels/broadcasters can be reported

While Twitch is a popular place to watch others play games, Steam is mainly about purchasing, downloading then playing games against others, including friends. While much of this is appropriate and fun, there is a selection of violent and mature games that are not.

However, there are useful parental controls on the site, and ‘Steam Family View’ helps parents to manage and limit what is downloaded.

Points for parents 

  • Watch channels for 15-20 minutes, multiple times (at different times of the day), in order to judge their suitability
  • Privacy settings give options to control what is shared; location settings can be switched off
  • Be wary of the ‘Whisper’ feature in Twitch: this allows users in the same channel to chat privately
  • Keep an eye on this for any inappropriate messaging; chat sequences tend to stay logged for a few months
  • Talk regularly about healthy online habits - encourage children to be open about anything they’ve seen or heard that’s upset them