Almost one in five children say they always or often find it difficult to stop playing video games, a survey by Barnardos has found.
The child welfare charity surveyed 700 national school pupils, from third to sixth class, about their online gaming experiences.
Respondents said gaming was fun and allowed them to connect with peers or to make new friends. Some respondents said video game companies should make it easier to review and block people more quickly when they are being abusive during games.
One in seven (14 per cent) respondents said it was difficult to get enough sleep as they were staying up late gaming.
One boy, aged 10, said “you can get headaches and stomach aches” from playing too long, while a girl (11) said “people might send you mean words and so you might get strange feelings or bad comments”.
Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed said their mood always or often changes after playing video games.
Children surveyed also mentioned unmoderated chat and message functions as an issue. Half of the respondents said they had seen others being cyberbullied or sent mean messages, while 17 per cent said it was an issue always or often.
More than one in three children (35 per cent) said they play games online with others they do not know or have never met. More than one in five (21 per cent) said they have often or always been asked a personal question by someone they do not know.
Children told Barnardos’ Online Safety Programme they were aware of the risks of adults posing as children when playing games.
Barnardos has recommended that gaming companies act quickly to block those sending abusive messages and that the reporting process be more straightforward. It said chat functions in games marketed to children should ensure the content those playing are exposed to is age appropriate. The charity also recommends that online games directed at children should have no options for in-game purchases.
“The children we spoke to are self-aware when it comes to the online gaming world, and offered insightful and practical recommendations to make online gaming safer,” said Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly. “It’s important for adults with the power to make changes to listen to what children are telling us.”
She said: “It’s also clear that some children want their parents to help them manage the amount of time they spend online.”