How can I help my child?

How do I know if my child is spending too much time playing online games?

Australian experts recommend less than two hours a day of entertainment screen time for children aged 5 to 17 years. Many young people spend a lot more than two hours a day online. 

You have a key role in helping your child manage their online time and in monitoring any impacts in their everyday life.  Look out for signs like:

  • reduced school performance
  • lack of sleep 
  • changes in eating patterns
  • becoming withdrawn from friends and family. 

In some cases, setting firm limits as a family may be enough to help address too much gaming. But in other cases, there may be underlying issues like depression and anxiety that are linked to problematic internet use. If you’re worried that gaming is taking over your child’s life, seek professional advice from your GP, a trained psychologist or the school counsellor.

You can also access advice and help from:

  • Parentline on 1300 30 1300. Parentline provides confidential telephone counselling which aims to support parents and carers of children. 
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Kids Helpline is a free private telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25 years.
  • eHeadspace on 1800 650 890. eHeadspace provides a confidential, free and secure space where young people aged 12 to 25 years, or their families, can chat, email or speak with a qualified youth mental health professional.

How can I help my child play games safely with others online?

Some online games encourage team work and interaction with others, including adults. Players can usually communicate with each other by:

  • sending messages that can be typed as part of the game
  • chatting online while playing the game
  • physically speaking using headsets or microphones.

With most games you can choose to restrict chat features through parental controls. You can also activate privacy settings, and make sure these settings are password protected. 

If your child is communicating with others during play, supervise their communication and establish rules about the information they share. 

While many gaming environments are moderated, some are not, which can place your child at risk of being in contact with adults that are looking to groom children and solicit personal information for the purpose of real life contact. 

Help your child maintain a healthy level of anonymity by:

  • talking to them about what type of information they should not share, including full names, birthdates, address, phone numbers, school name and photos
  • using an avatar or other image with a screen name that doesn’t reveal their real name
  • agreeing not to talk to another player in private chat or game chat mode 
  • telling them to notify you immediately if a stranger tries to start a conversation about something inappropriate or requests personal information. 

The interactive nature of online gaming means they can also be exposed to cyberbullying. If another player is behaving badly, harassing or bullying your child:

  • encourage your child to not respond or retaliate to cyberbullying
  • keep a record of the harassing messages
  • help them block, mute or ‘unfriend’ that person from their players list 
  • help them report the matter to the game site administrator.

See our cyberbullying pages for more information on how to report cyberbullying and ways to talk to your child about this. 



What should I know about in-app purchases?

Additional costs can be incurred after purchase of an online game, such as the option to pay for extra content. To help control the costs of online games and apps you can:

  • talk to your child about costs—games, apps and the extra features in them all cost real money
  • turn off ‘in-app’ purchase settings so your child has to ask to buy additional items 
  • keep passwords to yourself so your child can’t purchase apps and add-ons without you knowing
  • set a reasonable weekly or monthly spend for apps, games and data, and help your child track their usage so they can make good choices.

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