The dangers of online gaming

PRIMARY school children were urged to be aware of the dangers lurking within online gaming during an internet awareness day.

Youngsters at Hartlepool’s Throston Primary School were told about the risk of playing against complete strangers and asked to complete surveys about their gaming habits.

The survey showed worrying trends, including many of the children having a games console in their bedroom – meaning parents aren’t completely aware of how much time is spent in front of the screen.

Staff at the school, in Flint Walk, also focused on hand-held and smartphone games, reminding the children that dangers remain on mobile devices.

Parents were also sent in-depth leaflets detailing the risks of online games and tips that can be passed on to the children.

Mark Atkinson, headteacher at the school, said: “Obviously there are dangers with all aspects of using the internet, but we focused on the risks of online gaming.

“We talked about how they might be playing games which according to the age rating are too old for them, how their accounts can be hacked and the importance of not playing or being in contact with any strangers.

“The children were aware of the dangers, they know the risks which is really encouraging.

“But they think the real danger in somebody hacking their account is the fact they may be locked out for a couple of days, not that a complete stranger has access to what they are doing.”

Staff at the school tried to get the message across that if children are ever in any doubt of wrongdoing while playing online they should log off and flag up the situation to their parents or teachers straight away.

Mr Atkinson said the survey carried out with the children showed that some are limited to just 30-minute spells of gaming – with breaks – on an evening, while others play for more than two hours at a time.

“We wanted to get the main messages across,” he said.

“It’s easy for children to get addicted or to get the wrong message from games.

“The age ratings are there for a reason, some parents think it’s because the games are too difficult for younger children to play but it’s because they aren’t suitable for them to play.

“And obviously the children need to know not to ever give out any personal information to strangers who they are playing against online.”

Youngsters took part in classroom activities before presenting their work and findings in a school assembly during the afternoon.