In this week’s column I would like to focus on Apex Legends, which - with 50 million players within a month of its launch - could be the next big gaming sensation, writes NSPCC campaign manager Helen Westerman.
Similar to Fortnite, Apex Legends is a free-to-play Battle Royale game where players can team up with two other players to make a squad, and then compete against 19 other squads to be the last ones standing. While it’s similar to Fortnite it has a higher age rating: the PEGI rating is 16+, which means it could be grittier, and so a family discussion with your children about the suitability of the game is recommended. Especially when you consider that PEGI ratings don’t take into consideration other factors such as a games chat feature, potentially exposing them to inappropriate or hurtful language by other players.
Staying safe online is not only about regular chats with our children but taking practical steps too, and please remember if you are unsure you can simply call our NSPCC O2 advice line to get support about your device or a specific game. Because the game focuses on forming a squad with other players I would be mindful that, while you have to turn on voice chat to speak to others, the feature cannot be permanently turned off. There is no way of preventing players in your squad from talking to you, unless you mute them.
Regular online safety chats with our children can give them the confidence to report inappropriate behaviour or content, whether that be by telling a trusted adult or reporting to the game’s makers. With Apex Legends this is harder as the platform doesn’t enable players to be reported within the game, making it a longer process if another user is being inappropriate. Users can be reported through the Origin website or a console account. If you are concerned, then play the game without using in-game chat as it has a ‘pings’ feature allowing users to send an automated message to their squad. This allows them to speak to each other purely for the benefit of the game, e.g. users can ask their team to revive them or to collect some weapons. Whichever game your child wants to play it is always best to use the TEAM acronym:
Talk to your child regularly about what they’re doing online and how to stay safe. Let them know they can come to you or another trusted adult if they’re feeling worried or upset by anything they have seen.
Explore your child’s online activities together. Understand why they like playing certain games and make sure they know what they can do to keep themselves safe.
Agree your own rules as a family when using sites, apps and games.
Manage your technology and use the settings available to keep your child safe.
You can find more information about your child’s online world at www.net-aware.org.uk or call the O2 NSPCC Online Safety advice line for free on 0808 800 5002.