Whether it’s playing on a mobile, computer or console, there’s no denying that gaming offers young people a sense of escape from reality – but with this, comes threats and dangers that can impact a child’s mental health, education and even life.
But how can designated safeguarding leads (DSLs) identify students at risk from online gaming? How can you intervene as early as possible and prevent early-stage risks from becoming real-life incidents?
This month, Smoothwall is supporting Safer Internet Day 2022, which celebrates young people’s roles in creating a safer internet, whether that is whilst gaming and creating content, or interacting with their friends and peers.
With this year’s focus on gaming and apps, we want to support DSLs on the ground, to help you understand and identify the threats your students may be facing in online gaming forums while highlighting the ways our monitoring solution can add an additional level of protection for them.
What are the key threats from gaming that DSLs should be aware of?
Smoothwall’s 2021 research shows that the top three gaming platforms that raised the most serious alerts were Omegle, Discord and Roblox. These types of gaming platforms could leave students exposed to certain risks. Here we’ve highlighted the three most common threats children might be facing in gaming forums.
Cyberbullying – in 2021, 18% of the serious risk alerts identified by our digital monitoring solution fell into the cyberbullying category. So, whilst many forums are moderated, there are still opportunities for unmonitored conversations to take place, which can ultimately place a student at risk of being subject to cyberbullying.
Talking to strangers who may be there to ‘groom’ other members – some of the UK’s most popular games are designed to be played against others, which means young people could be at risk of playing a game with a potential perpetrator. In 2021, our digital monitoring solution detected 499 serious risks on the Omegle platform, that’s one student every 17 hours. 26% of these were suspected grooming incidents.
Trolling and scams – many trolls operate to deliberately ruin a game for other players – they are also known as “griefers”. Players may also try to trick young people into giving up ‘skins’ or other in-game items by offering them money or by hacking their accounts – which can be upsetting and stressful for a child.
What action can DSLs take today?
There are a number of measures DSLs can implement today to help keep children safe while using gaming forums.
Help make parents aware during school closures – it’s important that both parents and children alike are aware of the potential dangers of gaming forums, and how you’re helping protect them on school devices. It may be useful for parents to have their children demonstrate the forums to them, to see how they are using them. For some children, they will still be learning how to distinguish between fantasy and reality, which can be concerning for parents, so it’s important to encourage a child to talk about the games they’re playing and the forums they’re visiting.
Check who they’re communicating with – you can remind students that they should not be communicating with people that they do not know personally and should ignore any requests from strangers. This can happen during class sessions, assemblies or in small group discussions.
Protecting privacy – you can speak to students about what constitutes ‘personal information’ to ensure they do not disclose anything to anyone on a forum, or during a game. You should advise parents that they can also set parental controls on many devices, so this should be explored.
Have the right digital monitoring technology in place to spot students in danger – a good, 24/7 human moderated digital monitoring service is a lifeline for students and an invaluable time-saving tool for DSLs. The sooner the risk is identified, the quicker and more appropriate the intervention.
How digital monitoring can help DSLs free up time
Smoothwall’s human moderated, digital monitoring solution can help to detect students who may have become vulnerable from online gaming – as well as from activities. Our service works 24/7, 365 days a year, and is a virtual assistant to busy DSLs, removing false positives and alerting you to risks you need to know about. This is by email for lower graded risks or a phone call for more serious risks, including those risks to health or life. This enables early intervention and improved student outcomes. In 2021, Smoothwall Monitor found a student facing a serious online risk every 5 minutes.
If you’re new to digital monitoring, our ‘Complete Guide to Monitoring in Education’ whitepaper is available to download free here and provides DSLs with everything you need to know.
And, if you’re interested in learning more about what the most common risks in gaming apps used by children are and what do DSLs need to be aware of, click here to read our articles.
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Other articles in this gaming series include:
- How DSLs can advise students to stay safe when playing games and apps
- What are the most common risks in gaming apps used by children and what do DSLs need to be aware of?