To combat a growing tide of online abuse and concerns about the safety of young players gaming online, Microsoft has released what it calls an ‘Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit’ in Australia. It’s an in-depth guide to creating a safer space for all-ages gaming, and has been developed alongside the Australian eSafety Commissioner, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, The Department of Home Affairs, and the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association (IGEA).
It contains advice for caregivers, including age-specific bounds to consider when allowing kids free rein of PCs and gaming consoles, as well as general tips for creating a more positive atmosphere while gaming.
As avid gamers will know, online abuse and discrimination is common in popular online multiplayer titles – and it’s difficult to shield young gamers from harmful behaviours. But teaching kids how to properly behave, from the very start of their gaming experiences, may reduce the cycle of abuse. Learning to recognise and address these behaviours in mature, thoughtful ways will hopefully foster a better future for everyone.
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‘At Xbox, our mission is to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet,’ Dave McCarthy, CVP of Xbox Player Services says in the guide’s foreword. ‘We’ve seen the positive impact that gaming can have to people of all ages – helping to develop new problem-solving skills, forging new friendships, being a shared activity for families and helping people gain confidence using technology.’
‘But like any online activity, these positive experiences are had when communities are safe, accessible and everyone can play within the boundaries they set, free from fear and intimidation … We all play a role
in creating the Xbox community – whether a player is new to gaming or has been playing for decades, each person acts as a steward of the community, protecting others and reinforcing the Xbox Community Standards that detail what is and is not acceptable.’
In addition to providing advice for caregivers, the guide also outlines a range of Xbox-specific parental controls that can be deployed to create a safer gaming environment, and also provides an outline of potential risks, so that caregivers understand more about the world of video games from all angles.
Notably, the risks of long screen time are detailed in the guide – including how this can impact family relationships and interpersonal skills – as well as the more pressing concern of in-app purchases, which may encourage gambling-type behaviours. Equally, the guide also focusses on the positives associated with gaming – getting to forge new friendships, forming bonds between family members, and learning new skills.
As in all things, moderation is best when it comes to introducing children to gaming. The Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit is a handy resource for doing just that, with plenty of tips about online safety, and how to mitigate potential danger. You can view the full guide for yourself.