Industry-funded not-for-profit campaign group Internet Matters has called on parents and carers to spend time playing computer and video games with their children - in order to better understand the risks and benefits involved.

Founded in 2014 by internet service providers BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media, Internet Matters concerns itself with education on the benefits the internet can bring balanced with concerns over its increasing effects on everyday lives. Its latest report, 'Parenting Generation Game,' concerns itself with children's online gaming habits - and comes with a recommendation that parents spend more time playing alongside their kids, in order to better understand the risks and benefits.

'We know that parents who regularly get involved with their children’s activities online are better placed to lead them through some of the issues they may face,' explains Internet Matters chief executive Carolyn Bunting of the report's recommendation. 'We’re encouraging parents to do something that may well go against their nature and have a go - get involved. With an overwhelming majority of children playing online games now, it has become part and parcel of growing up in the digital age.'

'The breadth of games on offer is huge. Beyond popular games like FIFA, Fortnite and Minecraft, there are experiences that address every subject. From the light-hearted joy of speed in Alto’s Adventure, to the highs and lows of love in Florence to the heartbreaking refugee tale in Bury Me My Love,' adds Andy Robertson, the organisation's gaming specialist. 'With the right guidance you can find games you’ll be keen to play and share with your children. By getting involved, you can help capitalise on the benefits, celebrate their online gaming successes and even make recommendations about what games they could play next.'

The report, sponsored by Three and based on a survey of 2,000 UK parents with children aged between four and 16, found that 81 percent of children play games online while only 58 percent of parents have tried it for themselves. Interestingly, fathers found the idea of playing games alongside their children more appealing than mothers: 49 percent of male respondents agreed that gaming was a valid form of quality time with their child, while only 39 percent of female respondents felt the same way.

On the risks side of the table, 55 percent of respondents stated they were worried that strangers would use online games to contact their children while 38 percent admitted they aren't sure exactly who their child is playing with online. 50 percent of parents raised gaming addiction as a concern, alongside exposure to excessive violence and the collection and exploitation of their child's personal data. Disappointingly, 32 percent of parents said they were 'comfortable' with their children - some as young as five - playing games rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) as suitable only for those aged 18 or above, including the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

The most popular games should draw no shocked gasps: 37 percent of respondents said their child or children played Minecraft, 29 percent Fortnite, 24 percent Candy Crush, and 23 percent FIFA. Interestingly, a surprisingly high 29 percent of respondents indicated that their child streams their gameplay via Twitch and similar services.

The positives, meanwhile, included 62 percent of respondents reporting that gaming helped improve problem-solving skills, 53 percent saying it improved focus and concentration, and 33 percent claiming it has improved academic progress - while 64 percent saw it as a good way to 'let off steam.'

Following the publication of the report, Internet Matters has launched a gaming advice hub which it hopes will help parents across the globe better understand gaming and their children's chosen hobby.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04