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Parents urged to play online video games with children to ease safety concerns

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

Parents should take up online gaming in order to better understand the benefits and risks of the activity for their children, an online safety group has said.

Internet Matters said that despite more than three-quarters of children going online to play video games, most parents do not feel confident in dealing with issues around the subject.

It is now urging parents to play online with their children in order to improve their understanding of the environment.

New research published by the group suggests that more than half of parents (55%) worry strangers will contact their child through online gaming platforms, and over a third (38%) are unsure who their children are playing with online.

The Parenting Generation Game report also suggests that many parents acknowledge the benefits around gaming to some extent, with 62% of those asked saying they agree that playing games can help improve a child's problem-solving skills.

In response, the not-for-profit organisation has published a new online hub of resources for parents to provide them with information about the risks and benefits to playing video games online and encourages them to join in with their children.

Internet Matters chief executive Carolyn Bunting said: "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.

"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."

Concerns have been raised by some experts that video games can be addictive, and developers should take more responsibility to protect users - particularly younger people.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee is currently leading an inquiry into addictive technologies, including looking at video games and in particular their use of loot boxes - paid-for packs of in-game items which some fear could be used as a gateway to gambling for young people.

The new online guidance from Internet Matters includes suggestions for video games that are acceptable to be played by the whole family.

Andy Robertson, Internet Matters' gaming expert said: "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 lighthearted 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.

"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."

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