Online issues and worries: online gaming
There are lots of ways that you can game online. Popular methods include using a console, mobile device or PC.
What is online gaming?
Online gaming refers to any game that offers online interactions with other players. Online games offer a huge amount of fun, enjoyment, and opportunities for teamwork, and collaboration. Each game is different in terms of the information that you are able to share, and type of interaction that is possible, with other gamers.
What can go wrong?
Whether you're new to gaming or a hardcore gamer, things can go wrong, for example:
- feeling like you’re not able to stop playing
- being too competitive
- receiving online hate, bullying, or trolling
- spending too much money
- being hacked
- being hijacked
- receiving malware and viruses
- being banned or blocked
- being duped
How to keep yourself safe
Here are some things that you can do to make sure you stay safe when gaming online.
Keep your account secure
Create a strong password using three random words. Some sites also ask for numbers, symbols and a mixture of upper-case or lower-case letters so include some of these too. Never share your login details with anybody. Set up two-factor authentication to secure your account as much as possible.
Sign out of shared devices. If you forget, go to account settings, find the list of devices you're logged into, and sign out of all devices.
Never share personal information with someone you met through gaming. Check your username doesn't include your full name or information that could identify you, like your address or school.
Some gaming accounts let you share lots of information publicly, like location, games you play, time spent playing. It makes you an easy target for hackers. Set your account to private to hide this information from people who aren't your friends.
Downloading viruses and malware
Viruses and malware can attack your devices, crash or slow down your computer, and steal personal information. There are many ways you could accidentally download malware. These include clicking links in ads or messages, downloading pirated games, cheats and bots or unofficial mods. Unofficial illegal downloads are also traceable, so you risk being blocked from playing. Avoid this by buying or downloading from official and trusted sources. If it's too expensive, be patient and wait until there's a sale.
If you've already downloaded malware, it can be challenging to get it removed, but you should try to do so as soon as possible. Try to remove it using trusted security software, but this usually comes at a cost. Change all your passwords as quickly as possible.
Most games have a code of conduct, including no abusive language, insults or trolling. It's easy to get caught up in the heat of a game, but never deliberately annoy or spoil the game for others. If you're being bullied, don't be mean back as you could receive a warning or be banned.
Playing with strangers
Be careful when talking to strangers and making friends online. You never know who they are. They could be someone older pretending to be young or someone pretending to be your friend to hack your account. Meeting someone offline that you’ve met online might not be a good idea. You could be putting yourself in danger. But if you do decide to meet someone offline, it’s really important that you don’t do this alone. Take an adult with you, meet in a public place and always tell a trusted adult who you are meeting up with and where.
PEGI age ratings
All games have age ratings to make sure the content is appropriate. Check age ratings on the PEGI app. There are also symbols which tell you about the content, with icons for violence, fear and horror, bad language, sex, drugs and gambling.
Spending too much time playing, sitting still and staring at a screen for hours is unhealthy. Gaming can become addictive. Try to take breaks and do something active. Set time limits for yourself. Eat proper meals rather than snacking. If you think it's becoming a problem, speak to someone you trust. If you're not sure how to start a conversation with someone, here are some tips.
Spending can get out of hand when gaming, even when playing 'free' games. In-game items can add up quickly. Do you really need it, or are you just being impulsive? Don't send anyone money, or share banking or login information with anyone offering to help you to pimp your account.
Trading and exchanging
Only trade and sell in-game items using in-game tools on the gaming platform. Don't accept out-of-game payments as they can be faked. If a friend asks you to trade in-game, call or text to check if it's really them.
Buying or selling gaming accounts
Selling a gaming account is not allowed. If you buy an account, you'll never be the legal owner, and you could be blocked. You can't be sure that what you're buying is real. Trying to sell your account can be dangerous. You could be scammed into sharing your logins before they pay you. They could be a hacker and send phishing messages from your account – this is fraud, and as you are the original owner of the account, you could be blamed.
Some people try to jailbreak their accounts because games are expensive. This is illegal. Jailbroken accounts are traceable and can be blocked so you can't play online, update or multiplay. You will lose your warranty, and it could break your device.
What if it's already happened?
It's better to take steps to prevent something from happening, but if it's already happened, here's some advice.
If your account has been stolen, contact the support team for the game or shop. It can be a long process, and you might not get your account back at all. And if you do, you may still have lost games and in-game purchases. Creating a strong password, and not sharing it with others, can help to prevent this.
Tell someone you trust if you've been the victim of bullying or abuse. Report the player and close the dialogue. This is the best way to protect the rest of the gaming community from similar abuse. If you can, take a screenshot or photograph as evidence.
Advice from other young people aged 12-16
If something happens in a game that upsets you, or if something goes wrong, talk to someone. Take a screenshot, report to the site, and block the person that has upset you.
Tell a responsible and trustworthy adult what has happened and discuss why it’s made you feel that way, or why it’s upset or worried you.
Don’t overshare your personal information. Be positive and supportive online, don’t get involved in the drama, and stay in your own bubble with kind people.
Where to go for help
If you’re looking for help or information, but you’re worried about starting a conversation with an adult, here are some tips.
- Meic - free and confidential helpline for children and young people in Wales with advisers to help you find the support you need. Call 080880 23456, text 84001 or chat online
- Childline - free, private and confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK where you can talk about anything. Call 0800 1111
- Report a problem on Fortnite
- Report a problem on Minecraft
- Report a problem on Roblox
- Report a problem on Overwatch
- Report a problem on League Of Legends
- Report a problem on World of Warcraft
- Report a problem on Rocket League
- Report a problem on Rainbow Six: Siege
- Report a problem on Animal Crossing
- Report a problem on Splatoon 2
- Report a player on EA Games: FIFA, The Sims, Apex Legends, Battlefield, Plants vs Zombies
BBC Own It
Watch this short video for tips on how to deal with hate and insults when gaming online.