Parents should take up online gaming to better understand the risks and rewards it poses for their children, according to a leading internet safety charity.
In the UK, 81% of under-18s regularly play online games with a surge in the popularity of those which allow multiple players to talk during play.
“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,” Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of Internet Matters, told Sky News.
“We’re encouraging parents to do something that may well go against their nature and have a go – get involved.”
Adele Jennings did just that.
Her daughter, Amber, is 15 and plays online games at least once a day.
“I seemed to be nagging her all the time, and then I was thinking she’s on her own, in her bedroom, spending all this time in there… what is she actually doing?” Mrs Jennings said.
Many parents share similar concerns.
An Internet Matters survey revealed that along with fears about game play with strangers, 50% of parents were worried about gaming addiction and the amount of personal data that their children were sharing.
But unwilling to stop her daughter doing something she enjoyed, Mrs Jennings had a go herself.
“I’m just amazed! It’s so different to what I thought it was,” she told Sky News.
“Obviously as with everything there is good and bad but it’s given Amber and I a connection so we can talk about being safe online. And now that I have more of an understanding about it, I think she feels she can talk to me.”
There is a “gaming knowledge gap” between parents and children. Around 42% of parents admit they have never played an online game.
But with technology now such a huge part of daily life for young people, experts say the appeal of gaming is not diminishing.
“Lots of kids want careers in gaming, and there will be more games coming with virtual reality and augmented reality,” Ms Bunting said.
“So there will be new technology coming over the hill which parents need to get their head around and work out how it might impact their children.”