Young people at risk from playing inappropriate online games

File photo dated 28/8/2013 of a Xbox One. Photo credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

File photo dated 28/8/2013 of a Xbox One. Photo credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Young people in Suffolk are at risk from playing inappropriate games online and accessing the chat forums associated with them according to a recent survey.

According to the survey, the annual Suffolk Cyber Survey showed children and young people are spending more and more time online, with 37% of respondents spending more than five hours a day online, and 71% of parents are not limiting the amount of time their children spend online.

The survey conducted by e_Safer Suffolk, questioned 2,988 children from the age of 10 years old and up. 77% of those surveyed have a games console, with 71% of respondents to the survey using the internet for online gaming purpose, and 69% using a games console connected to the internet enabling them to engage in online chatrooms.

Recent studies have shown online aggression, which includes cyberbullying, discrimination and homophobic bullying, doubles between the ages of 10-11 and 14-15; and time spent online gaming where such behaviour is feature also increases with age.

The studies and the survey has prompted Suffolk County Council to stress the role parents have in keeping their children safe online.

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The role could be as simple as monitoring what games children are accessing, ensuring the age rating, or Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating is appropriate for their child and perhaps setting a limit for how long their child spends online.

PEGI ratings categorise games according to the content, and there are concerns that young people are playing games intended for an older audience.

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Games rated as suitable for those aged 18 or over often contain elements of graphic violence, strong sexual content, explicit references to gambling and vulgar language and discrimination.

County councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The importance of parents monitoring the computer games their children are playing and ensuring the age rating is appropriate is well documented and continues to be a key factor in keeping young people safe online.

“We also need to consider the potential dangers that come with young people accessing the chat forums that accompany some of these games that are not age appropriate to them.

“Without monitoring these avenues young people are more likely to be exposed to adult themes and content that could be damaging to their mental wellbeing.

“We are certainly not asking parents to stop their children playing computer games or talking to their friends online, but I would encourage parents to have an open conversation with their children about the games they’re playing and to consider the age ratings when buying games for them.”

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