At the risk of sounding old, when I was a kid, we played outside with other kids that we knew, we stayed away from strangers, and we had to be home before dark. Online gaming has enabled kids to meet many new friends who live outside of their neighborhood, but it also exposes them to potential risks that we never had to think about.
The information below should help today’s parent better understand how online gaming works so that they can ensure their kids are playing safe.
Online gaming isn’t limited to Xbox
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Online gaming includes any type of internet-connected game that your child plays on a computer, tablet, phone, or other electronic device. These types of games are often played through video game consoles like PS4 or Xbox, but can also include games on Facebook or through other websites or social media.
In many cases these games now incorporate at least one social component, such as texting, chatting verbally, or in some cases, encouraging use of video camera feed. As time goes on, the developers of these games are finding more and more ways to incorporate connective technologies, and that is where it is critical for parents to know how their kids are gaming and who they may be gaming with.
Some points to consider
- Online games are played by people of all ages. Your child may simultaneously be playing with children, teenagers, adults and even senior citizens
- There is no reliable vetting process to limit who plays an online game with your child unless you report a player for poor conduct
- Some games have very graphic, violent, rude, or even pornographic content in them. This may not be apparent when your child starts the game, and in some cases, will only appear when a specific combination of events occur during game play
- There are bullies and predators that play online games regularly
- Some games can trick you into making purchases online using a credit card or other pre-authorized payment method
The good news is that through regular communication and interaction with your child, you can identify and resolve these concerns before they become issues.
Enhancing game safety
- Check the age recommendation for the game your child wants to play. Almost every game has a clearly marked rating on the front or back of the package, or on the website to warn the user of potentially inappropriate content
- If you see another player acting inappropriately, you can usually block that player or report them (sometimes in the pause menu, or by highlighting the player’s name)
- You can and should review and select privacy settings where possible
- Use your best judgment when it comes to connective technology. It may not be wise for your child to use a live stream when gaming with people they do not know well
- You should always read the privacy statement to ensure that your (or your child’s) personal information is not being shared
- You should never keep credit card information on a console or in a game. If you have to do so, then make sure that you understand what you click on in the game to avoid unwanted or nonrefundable purchases
- Encourage your child to take regular breaks from playing the game. Gaming can help relieve stress and anxiety, but it can also be addictive
- You can say no. You are the parent, you set the rules
We all want our kids to have the best experience possible online or otherwise, and to do so, we need to communicate with them. Have regular open discussions with your child regarding the games they are interested in, how the games make them feel, the interactions they have with the other gamers, and this is a big one…from time to time, watch and/or play the game with them!