To mark this year’s Safer Internet Day, research released today (8th February) by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), coordinators of Safer Internet Day in the UK, reveals young people’s experience with online games and apps, and exposes the importance of staying safe during online game play.
- 48% of young people say if they couldn’t game online anymore, they would feel like they’ve lost a part of who they are
- Playing games online has helped 61% of young people spend more time with friends virtually than they have done in real life
- 52% of young people who play online games, say it’s taught them to respect others
- 61% of parents (with children aged 8-17) have been alerted to a new person within an online game that their child is unsure about
- Young people report at least one negative emotion in various online game situations. This includes seeing someone being mean or nasty (73%), seeing someone cheat (73%), and falling out with a friend (68%) when playing an online game
- Almost six in 10 young people (59%) want to learn more about how to play online games safely
Safer Internet Day is supported by partners in the UK, including government ministers, Premier League football clubs, industry bodies, celebrities, charities, schools, and police services. These supporters join together with young people to inspire and ignite conversations and host events that help to promote safe, responsible, and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.
Gameplay in action
The importance of online games in young people’s lives has continued to grow, with nearly half (48%) saying that if they couldn’t game online anymore, they would feel like they’ve lost a part of who they are. Furthermore, 63% of young people say that playing online games is one of their favourite pastimes, with more than three quarters (76%) saying it gives them something to do, and 59% saying it makes them feel good about themselves.
However, the research reveals the impact that negative experiences during gameplay can have on young people, with respondents reporting at least one negative emotion in various situations. This includes seeing someone being mean or nasty (73%), seeing someone cheat (73%), and falling out with a friend (68%) when playing an online game. Additionally, 38% of young people who play online games say they have experienced offensive or mean comments from other game players once per week or more.
Online gameplay has become a crucial lifeline for young people. Over half (58%) of young people say they play games virtually now more than ever before. In fact, over three in five young people
(61%) say that playing games online has helped them to spend more time with friends online than in real life. This increased connectivity is sparking positive outcomes when playing and connecting online, as 52% of young people who play online games say its taught them to respect others in real life. Young people surveyed continue to foster transferable skills such as working and communicating as a team online, in turn, making them feel happy (63%) and proud (26%).
Encouragingly, alongside increased gameplay, the research also shows that young people are taking positive action when things do go wrong. 34% are most likely to respond by blocking someone and 16% reported quitting an online game completely, when coming into contact with a mean person or negative comments.
Playing it safe
While 70% of parents (with children aged 8-17) think that online games have helped their child connect with friends or relax and unwind, over the last year, 66% have worried about their child meeting someone ‘bad’ through online games.
However, today’s research highlights how young people are navigating the potential risks by proactively put their online safety at the forefront of gameplay. 34% say they teach themselves how to play new online games safely, and 20% learn to do so safely through their friends. This safety knowledge is crucial, as 78% of respondents reported receiving friend requests in an online game from people they don’t know, and nearly half (46%) have received requests or invitations to meet up with strangers in person – reminding us that there are real risks and reinforcing the importance of organisations like UKSIC, and the need for Safer Internet Day, to help ensure all young people know how to play games online, safely.
A mutual understanding
Reassuringly, the research shows that parents recognise they have a responsibility to support their children’s understanding of online safety. 92% report talking to their child about playing an online game safely, with 57% doing so once a week or more.
This open dialogue shows how engagement is working in some areas, as, for example, with in-game purchases, which have become a fundamental part of young people’s online game experience. 70% of young people report making in-game purchases and 95% of those get their parents’ / guardians’ permission to purchase within a game.
Pulling the plug
While the majority of young people feel they have a responsibility to report mean or nasty comments in online games (72%), or mean or nasty people in online games (72%), the research shows that there is still a way to go. The majority (59%) of young people want to learn more about how to safely play games online.
Reassuringly, young people have ideas for how to make online games safer. 35% want to be able to easily report mean comments or strangers, 32% are asking for privacy settings, 26% want to be able to turn off the comments section, and almost one in four (24%) are asking for more information about how to recognise a bad person within an online game.
Will Gardner OBE, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, says: “This Safer Internet Day comes at an important time, when being online has become a crucial lifeline for many young people, particularly during the turbulence of the last two years.
“Empowering young people is at the heart of what we do. With 59% of young people saying that they want to learn more about how to play online games safely, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to focus on this issue and listen to and help support young people. This research shares how young people are taking matters into their own hands and are open to discussing issues in online games. Managing risk, including potentially harmful content and contact, is fundamental to being safe online and looking after others.
“Our research reveals not only the challenges that young people face but also what strategies they are using to manage this as well as what ideas they have for safer environments. Safer Internet Day provides the perfect opportunity to help support strategies for staying safe online, and have conversations that help to champion young people’s safe internet use and online safety education.”
To support people across the UK this Safer Internet Day and beyond, the UKSIC has worked with young people to produce 2022’s Young People’s Charter. It also hosts a library of free educational resources to provide parents, schools, and other members of the children’s workforce with the tools they need to navigate the internet safely.
To keep updated and to get involved, follow @UK_SIC and use the hashtags #PlayYourPart and #SaferInternetDay. For further information or to register your support as an organisation, visit https://www.saferinternetday.org.uk.