Christchurch Call, increase in online abuse helped form the new Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit

Microsoft has launched its new Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit.
Microsoft has launched its new Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit. Photo credit: xbox

The Christchurch Call and growing gaps between parental and child awareness of digital issues in the Asia Pacific region has spurred Xbox New Zealand to today launch a new feature aimed at improving gamers' safety online.

The Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit has been developed in conjunction with local organisations Netsafe, the Te Mana Whakaatu Classification Office, and the Interactive Gaming and Entertainment Association (IGEA).

The 35-page guide offers advice to parents about how best to keep their children safe online and the kinds of conversations to have from the early age of five years old through to the teenage years. It also provides information to parents about the best apps and parental controls settings to use on the Xbox range of devices.

Xbox chief digital safety officer Courtney Gregoire said the input from Aotearoa has helped greatly.

"Our partners in New Zealand have been some of the best at experiencing and sharing data. It helped inform how we built case studies straight into the toolkit," she told Newshub.

She said the tragedy in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 where a terrorist murdered 51 people and injured 40 more spurred real change in how Xbox has approached online safety.

"One of the most important things that has had incredible value is the content incident protocols that we developed after the Christchurch tragedy that really has helped us understand when, for example, in Buffalo, New York, another horrible tragedy occurred, we had the protocol in place across 25 technology platforms. What I've appreciated is the open, honest dialogue, the raw conversations about where we can improve that the Christchurch community has brought."

The toolkit is said to offer easy-to-understand advice on parental controls and setting up accounts, as well as providing case studies for families to discuss openly..

"Technology can be overwhelming and it's pretty unfair to parents who've got enough on their plate to think that they're going to become experts in the 20 to 40 applications that a child might want to be playing with. So we hope this is an entry point to start with," Gregoire said.

"The toolkit is being honest not to shy away from the risks. Digital safety harms have been increasing over time and we need to keep evolving what it means for us to think about being safe."

Results from Microsoft's annual Global Online Safety Survey found there was a difference between the risk that children are experiencing and what their parents thought was actually happening.

80% of teens in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) reported experiencing an online safety risk, but only 64% of parents thought teens had this type of experience. That’s a 16% gap when it comes to types of harm and risks. Globally, the gap is around 12%.

However, Gregoire also told Newshub it's important these issues should be addressed with young gamers from an early age - and be a continual conversation between both sides.

"It's not a one and done conversation. It's not like I taught you how to tie your shoes and now that's a foregone conclusion. Their experiences online are going to evolve."

The Xbox Gaming Safety Toolkit was released in New Zealand today and is available free on the Xbox website in its Family Hub section.