Ralph Thoresby School

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Keeping young gamers safe

While new games consoles and video games were amongst the most-wished-for gifts last Christmas, and no doubt delighted young people all over the country, it’s worth a quick look at the websites these tend to lead young gamers to.

With around 1,000,000,000 monthly views and 1,000,000 broadcasters, Twitch is the most popular video game live streaming service. Users can watch playbacks of games being played by other people, live stream their own games and chat to other gamers. It has a rating of 13+ and advises that those between 13 years and 18 years should be supervised.

There are no chat filters but individual broadcasters can ban specific words and the bigger channels are more likely to be safer options in this respect. However, the live nature of the site means it can expose young people to highly inappropriate and potentially upsetting content.There are a few helpful options to be aware of:

The chat room can easily be hidden from view
Specific users can be muted and blocked
Unsuitable content, and the users responsible for it, can be blocked
Channels/broadcasters can be reported

Points for parents

Watch channels for 15-20 minutes, multiple times (at different times of the day), in order to judge their suitability
Privacy settings give options to control what is shared; location settings can be switched off
Be wary of the ‘Whisper’ feature: this allows users in the same channel to chat privately
Keep an eye on this for any inappropriate messaging; chat sequences tend to stay logged for a few months
Talk regularly about healthy online habits – encourage children to be open about anything they’ve seen or heard that’s upset them

While Twitch is a popular place to watch others play games, Steam is mainly about purchasing, downloading then playing games against others, including friends. While much of this is appropriate and fun, there is a selection of violent and mature games that are not.

However, there are useful parental controls on the site, and ‘Steam Family View’ helps parents to manage and limit what is downloaded.

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