Don't play games with your child’s safety and check the online safety regulator’s Gift Guide before placing the latest gaming product under the tree this holiday season.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said with the increasingly popular Black Friday sales starting tomorrow and Christmas just around the corner, many parents and carers may be rushing to grab the latest gaming console or gaming membership for their kids.
“There are some amazing gaming products on the market that can be both educational and entertaining for children and young people,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“However, there can also be serious risks with online gaming, such as bullying, harassment and grooming on popular multiplayer and interactive games.
“It’s also important to be aware of gaming subscriptions offered by consoles like Nintendo Switch and Xbox, and livestreaming platform Twitch, which may be ongoing and possibly not be age appropriate. Options for in-app purchases can also be problematic.
“Those looking to make a purchase should do their research including checking the product’s classification, reading reviews and encouraging children to use the block and reports function if they come across harmful content, including abuse.
“Other factors to consider when buying online gaming-related gifts for young people include whether a platform or service allows for multiplayer functionality, like Fortnite, Steam or Minecraft or co-mingling capabilities which can be harmful.
“It’s also important to consider whether the platform allows for livestreaming capabilities, like Twitch or Discord. Get to know all the options and consider what gaming product is right for your child.”
Ms Inman Grant said parents and carers should also be aware that many gaming products do have safety features embedded in their products and parents should look out for these features before making their purchase.
“eSafety’s Safety by Design initiative encourages technology companies to think about people first when they create online products and services by building safety into their products, rather than bolting it on afterwards," Ms Inman Grant said.
“eSafety has been working with the gaming sector to encourage further adoption of this approach, and we already are seeing gaming products on the market with some embedded safety features."
Some safety features embedded in today’s popular games and platforms includes:
- Twitch, a popular livestreaming service geared towards gamers, has recently added a feature called ‘phone verified chat’. This gives users on the platform greater control over who can participate in chat, by allowing them to require some or all users to verify a phone number before chatting.
- Roblox, an online game platform and game creation system, has recently introduced measures to support age verification for users.
- The LEGO Life app has a team of highly trained moderators who look through all images sent to LEGO Life before they go live – this ensures children do not accidentally share pictures of themselves. LEGO also recently introduced Verified Parental Consent, which enables parents to verify themselves and give consent for their child to play and share in the LEGO Life app.
Ms Inman Grant said parents should discuss with their child what to do if they get bullied, or if a stranger tries to start an inappropriate conversation with them while gaming.
“Children should know to speak to an adult immediately if they are being bullied or approached by a stranger online,” Ms Inman Grant said.
"When it comes to gaming I encourage parents and carers to get amongst the action, playing the game themselves, to get a feel for the product and staying engaged in your child’s online life.”
Read more about how to stay safe when using tech gifts.