What are the risks?

While there may be many positive aspects to online gaming, it’s also important to be aware of some of the risks:

  • Problematic internet use (also referred to as ‘internet addiction’ and ‘internet gaming addiction’)—by its very nature, online gaming is designed to hook and engage players, compelling them to go on to the next challenge or level. This can result in over use and excessive screen time, which can impact on your child’s sleeping pattern, eating, performance at school and relationships in the real world. In extreme cases it can have a significant impact on a child’s daily social and psychological functioning. 
  • Interaction with strangers—networked games involve multiple players (in some cases even hundreds or thousands of players).  With these games, your child could be communicating with strangers (including adults) through web cam, private messaging or online chat, increasing the risk of contact from predators.
  • In-game bullying and harassment—while online gaming can lead to positive social interactions, there is also the potential for harm through harassing messages and bullying, either from one player or a group of players. Anecdotally, we hear that girls and women in particular can be targets of harassment and bullying when playing online games.
  • Gambling—some online games simulate gambling and can expose your child to a realistic gambling experience at a very young age.
  • In-game and in-app purchases—young people can potentially run up large bills through in-game and in-app purchases. Some games may be free to download, but require the player to pay real money to advance beyond a certain point or to access additional content (like special powers for a character) not available in the free version of the game.
  • Security vulnerabilities and viruses—this can include vulnerabilities with PC gaming through phishing, keylogging malware or fake apps that can steal passwords and account details. A player may be prompted (and even pressured) to download and install an application or document in order to be a member of a team. They think they have been contacted by a friendly and helpful player, when in fact they have inadvertently fallen prey to malicious software. 

We surveyed children and this is what we found:

  • 64% played some form of online game with others
  • 52% played with people they didn’t know
  • 17% experienced bullying or abuse while playing a network game with others
  • 34% made an in-game purchase and this rose to 45% when they played a network game with others.

Source:State of Play—Youth and Online Gaming in Australia, Office of the eSafety Commissioner

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