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Many people enjoy gaming, from simple text-based play through to multiplayer games and virtual worlds. It can be a great way to have fun or improve your skills.

But gaming can expose you to risks such as online abuse, spending too much time online and online gambling.

Learn about the risks you may come across and how to stay safe while you’re gaming online.

On this page:

What is gaming?

Gaming involves playing computer or video games and provides an opportunity for people of all ages to communicate, share content and be part of a community group. 

Online games are usually played over the internet with friends. They can be accessed, downloaded and played using different devices, using computers, smartphones, virtual reality headsets and specialised gaming consoles. There are different ways to connect devices so that people can game together, including using Local Area Networks (LANs) or online multiplayer options. 

Some games can still be played without being connected to the internet, but there might be access to extra features if you’re playing online. 

Games range in complexity from simple text-based play to realistic first-person shooter games and experiences in virtual worlds. Live streaming and game recording have become popular and games and associated apps are commonly used to communicate, share content and be part of a community group. For example, streaming and chat platforms such as Twitch and Discord are used by many gamers to interact with players all over the world. 

Gaming has a number of benefits:

  • Entertainment and fun. Gaming can be exciting, entertaining and fun for both children and adults. Games and virtual spaces can be a great way for people to connect with friends and family, relax, reduce stress and be creative.
  • Meet new people and expand your social network. You can make new friends in multiplayer games and find a community where you can express yourself through gaming. 
    Improve problem-solving skills. Research has shown that some games can improve your problem-solving skills and enhance your short-term memory.
  • Improve coordination. Some games can improve your hand-eye coordination and speed, if players need to balance visual and sound cues with physical movement.
  • Physical activity. Virtual reality gaming involves a lot of physical movement, meaning players don’t spend hours sitting still. There are also virtual workouts and other online games that help players explore different environments.

How to stay safe while online gaming

Participate in respectful gameplay, and use in-app functions if players are being mean to you or making you feel uncomfortable

Being abused or criticised shouldn’t be a normal part of your gaming life. Setting up a respectful environment for your gameplay can make sure everyone is having a more positive experience online. For example, if a friend is getting mean comments from someone unknown during a game, you could try encouraging them to improve their skills by giving them tips. You can also use the ‘mute’ button or settings in your game to get a break from someone who’s annoying you, or if things are getting out of hand you can report the other person in-app and block them.

It's common to make new friends while gaming, but make sure you’re careful about how well you really know your ‘online friends’. 

Remember, it’s easy for people to lie online, and in some cases they can trick you into a dangerous relationship or scam you.

Learn more about unwanted and unsafe contact.

Report poor behaviour and abuse to the platform

The gaming platforms have a responsibility to ensure your safety. If the abuse is starting to feel harmful, collect evidence so you have proof – this can include screenshots or recordings of the abusive comments.

Then you can report the player in-app – you can find how to do this on common gaming platforms in The eSafety Guide. If you don’t hear back from the platform, you can ask eSafety for help to remove serious cyberbullying content (for under 18s) or adult cyber abuse (for 18 or older).

Be aware of game classifications and age restrictions

It’s important to remember online multiplayer games and streaming platforms connect people of all ages. This means that adults and children can mix, chat and have experiences together – and sometimes that’s not appropriate, safe or supportive for gamers who are younger or less experienced. Be aware they may also see bad behaviour from you while they are watching you play, then copy that in their own gaming.

While gaming consoles don’t have a recommended age range, most games and platforms carry a classification and each game should have a warning about the themes, violence and/or coarse language you may be exposed to. You can check the classification, review the site and explore The eSafety Guide to see if a game or platform is suitable to your interests and age. If you have children in your care, it’s also a good idea to watch some gameplay before deciding which games are appropriate (or not) for them.

Keep personal details private

Try choosing usernames based on your interests or personality rather than something with your name, birthday or location in it – this type of data is your ‘personally identifiable information’. If you share too much of this information online, it might be used inappropriately by other people and put you at risk of different online harms, such as:

  • cyberbullying
  • adult cyber abuse
  • scams
  • identity theft
  • doxing (this when someone shares your personally identifiable information without your consent, on purpose)
  • swatting (when someone reports a false crime or emergency to get a large number of emergency service responders to your address).

You can read online safety advice for popular games, including voice and text chat apps used while gaming in The eSafety Guide.

Manage your in-app purchasing and game memberships

Most gaming consoles, such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PlayStation offer memberships to their online communities. These memberships work like a subscription and are usually paid for every month or year. Having a membership lets users access extra features, free games and the ability to play in exclusive communities.

There are also virtual stores and currencies, which are popular in different types of games. Many gaming platforms have wallets where players can add funds directly or via gift cards. The money can be spent on games or in-game add-ons such as new features, clothes, equipment or ‘skins’.

These memberships, virtual stores and other in-app purchasing options range in price and features so it’s important to do your research before deciding which option is right for you. There may also be age-related conditions that need to be met to activate a membership or purchase, depending on how the account is set up.

Games often encourage people to spend more money. Some games are set up on purpose to be more difficult and unenjoyable unless you pay for extra features. 

It can also be hard to tell how much is spent, because in-game currency is not easy to convert in your head. Each purchase may be small on its own, but if you keep buying things it can very quickly add up to a lot of money on the linked credit card.

Learn more about in-app purchasing and check out The eSafety Guide for more information about gaming memberships and other in-game purchasing. 

Gaming addiction: How to know if you’re spending too much time gaming

The amount of time someone is comfortable playing online games varies from person to person. But signs that you may be spending too long gaming include:

  • putting off getting work or study done, but still spending lots of time gaming
  • getting angry or worked up about losing
  • being really annoyed when you are interrupted or asked to stop
  • playing online games late at night
  • finding it hard to get to sleep because your mind is still buzzing
  • finding it hard to concentrate when you’re not gaming
  • pushing friends or family away or try to get out of social commitments so you can spend more time online
  • missing out on exercise because you’re spending so much time gaming
  • other people saying your online gaming is a problem, even if you don’t think so.

If you are worried about the time you spend gaming, try:

  • limiting your game play time
  • scheduling some screen-free activities
  • setting aside time offline to spend with your friends or family
  • talking to someone about how you’re feeling – you can reach out to a confidential counselling and support service for more help.

Learn more about how to manage your screen time.

Online gambling

Some online games are actually considered to be gambling sites because they make money from people paying to play, then taking chances and losing. They often look like casino tables, slot machines (or ‘pokies’) and card games like poker.

Games that encourage you to pay for in-app items like ‘loot’ boxes, without knowing what’s inside, may seem normal. But there’s a risk that if you get nothing of value, you will want to play again and again until you ‘win’ – even though it costs you lots of money. This means you may actually be gambling without realising it. Chasing the excitement can become had to resist, and hard to pay for.

If you are under the age of 18, gambling is an illegal activity whether you play online or offline.


  • Gambling online is risky, and it can be addictive.
  • Always read the terms and conditions of a website before paying to play a game online.
  • Make sure you know what you are getting for your money if you do pay for games online.

You can read more about in-app purchasing in our Online tools and features section. 

More information

This page offers general information for an adult audience. Tailored advice about gaming is available for kids, young people and parents.

You can also find more information in the Gift Guide about gaming, gaming memberships and virtual reality.

Last updated: 05/02/2024