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For current generations online gaming serves as a central location for social interaction with a variety of media platforms offering very varied levels of "gaming". In this article we're going to look at the types of online gaming available before giving some advice on encouraging internet safety for children when they are gaming. We will also give some age related advice for each kind of gaming and expose how internet safety for children must apply to online gaming.

Firstly then we shall look at the means of access and types of games available online. The most common online gaming access is no longer through a PC but via a games console- a PS3, Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360. Now these online gaming platforms are the largest in the world and of course game titles have clear age restrictions. Whilst you may be happy for your child to play "adult" themed games you need to be aware that the adult interaction of the games transcends the actual game itself. For example we can take the game "Call of Duty" – if your children are of a certain age the chances are you have heard of this game as it outsold Harry Potter.

Call Of Duty is a game rated 18 in the UK but many people are content to let their children play this. The game features graphic violence and torture but if you feel your child is equipped to deal with that there is no necessary harm. However when the game is played online you are entered into a chat room with 7-20+ other players. In these "chat" rooms you often get what, for politeness's sake, we will call "banter". Unfortunately given the typical age and maturity of a lot of the people in these chat rooms you will often get swearing, vulgarities, racism and bullying. Whilst you may consider this all part of the game you, as a parent, need to ensure that your child is equipped to deal with this kind of material and that you are happy for them to be exposed to it. If you are willing to let them play these games then you want to talk to them about the actions of others online and their own behaviour in these rooms.



Secondly we have what are known a "massively multiplayer online role playing games" the most popular title in this genre being "World of Warcraft". These games involve fantasy gameplay with violence and high levels of social interaction between players. However as a parent you need to be aware that there is a large mixture of ages playing these games ad that bullying is not uncommon – especially amongst groups who know each other both online and offline. This means that safety is of paramount importance in these games and you want to ensure your gamer child is properly equipped to handle the social interaction.

Learning to distinguish between fantasy and reality is of curse a crucial first step but you also need to ensure your child knows what is appropriate behaviour online and that they know to keep their online and offline lives separate. Talk to you children about the correct ways to behave online and show them how to report negative behaviour. Make sure they understand that they should never share their private details with anyone online that they are not friends with already in the offline world.

Finally alongside these games we have mentioned you need to be aware that there are a huge number of adult themed games that don't require any physical purchase. So if you have decided that the above options aren't appropriate for your child yet you still need to be aware that there are a plethora of games that – whilst age restricted – do not have age verification. This means that they can be exposed to very adult themes in a social setting with other adults. Teaching your child appropriate online behaviour is therefore essential to ensuring their safety and your own peace of mind

Jane writes about internet safety for children in order to help raise awareness to parents about the potential dangers of their digital world. For more information on this topic please visit - http://parents.vodafone.com

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