Kev Clelland, Operations Director at the Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM), has urged parents to gain a thorough understanding of game mechanics and online behaviours in a bid to try ‘safeguard children from the potential harms of the digital world’.
Writing for the charity as FIFA 21 launched, Clelland urged parents to utilise the resources offered by YGAM to ‘learn about the games their children are playing’ and ensure safer gaming habits.
He wrote: said: “Parents across the UK, including myself, have been hearing all about the release of FIFA 21 for weeks now and the game has become just as popular as watching or playing football and no less competitive. However, I won’t be the only parent who has experienced the sometimes-toxic nature of online video gaming.
“For parents, it can be hugely worrying and unnerving to allow children to engage with friends and play online, especially with so many aspects of gaming being unfamiliar to many adults. Another area that causes concern and confusion for me and many parents is the use of Loot Boxes, or in the case of FIFA, Ultimate Team Packs (FUT Packs).
“The introduction of these games of chance in many video games played by children has led many to campaign for the reclassification of them as ‘games of chance’ making them subject to the Gambling Act.
“With what seems like an overwhelming amount of information out there, it is more important than ever that parents are able to understand the mechanics of the games that their children are playing. Being equipped to create reasonable and realistic boundaries is essential.”
Clelland drew attention to a 2019 study commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League which suggested that the majority of people who played online games received some form of harassment, abuse, or bullying.
However, he stated that with a thorough understanding of the gaming environment, online games can ‘provide a hugely positive space for young people’.
“Giving parents the resources and knowledge they need to understand games such as FIFA is key to being able to manage children’s safety online and minimise exposure to harmful behaviour,” he added. “There are many great tips available through the YGAM Parents Hub on how to engage with children and help them stay safe.”
During 2020, children’s safety and the safeguarding of online environments have expanded in significance for the government, following the COVID-19 lockdown. In informal meetings with big tech and media leadership, DCMS has called on digital businesses to adopt the government’s recommendations formed by its ‘white paper on online harms’, outlining duty of care responsibilities for safeguarding online environments.