Safeguarding in eSports

Online Safety for Children

What is eSports?

To some, the world of eSports – or electronic sports – might seem incomprehensible.

So what is eSports? It’s a popular new sports field involving video games. Online streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch make it possible to host and promote eSport competitions on a huge scale. By the late 2010s, eSports had an estimated total audience of 454 million viewers, with revenue amounting to over 1 billion dollars.

You can read a more comprehensive introduction to eSports here.

New Sports Bring New Safeguarding Challenges

As eSports is a relatively new field, safeguarding policies and procedures are still in their infancy. The focus is on safeguarding children in eSports. Safeguarding adults doesn’t seem to be on the radar at all.

eSports is an increasingly popular form of entertainment and pastime in the UK. However, the field is not receiving the attention that it should from adult safeguarding authorities.

The UK’s approach to safeguarding more traditional sports is far more established. Many clubs and organisations follow the NSPCC or ACT for general guidance and support.

A Tailored Approach

Safeguarding guidelines within eSports are often too general and unspecific.

An established NGB such as the FA will implement comprehensive guidance, policies, procedures and regulations. These might include mandatory DBS checks for coaches, or a Designated Safeguarding Officer network. Ideally, eSports organisations should adopt a similar approach. However, there is a significant discrepancy in rules applicable to eSports among distinct jurisdictions.

This makes the formation of an all-encompassing set of regulations hard to implement. At the same time, eSports bodies and tournament organisers need to be aware of international laws and regulations, as well as those applicable to their own country.

Poor Policies Lead to Poor Practice

All of this makes current guidelines for teams and organisations competing in these fields unclear and difficult to follow. It is no wonder that various scandals have come out in eSports, such as the argument that certain aspects of online games may encourage child gambling. We’re also seeing instances of bullying, financial abuse and grooming, similar to those found in other elite sport environments.

This is not an area of concern for adult safeguarding in the future. It’s a current, ongoing concern, one that’s exacerbated by the current isolation created by lockdown, where more and more are looking online for fun or competition.

It is up to us in the safeguarding world to make sure that eSports participants have the correct information to stay safe as they participate in this new and growing area of activity. We also have to ensure that anyone organising eSports activities are aware of the safeguarding issues that may exist in their field, and that they know how to address any instances of abuse.