Online gaming is hugely popular among kids, and they have access to more online than ever before. Of course, as with anything online, there is a risk kids take with online games that parents need to be aware of. With online gaming, kids have a connection to thousands of different people from all over the world, which can of course be beneficial for forming friendships and gaining perspective, but can also be dangerous as people seek to take advantage of young people who do not know what they are getting into. Your job as a parent is to be aware of the risks and ensure that your kids know them as well.
Predators can befriend your child online and target them to learn personal details about them and even arrange to meet them in person. They can pose as friends or family members, lying about their own identities to get close to your child to engage them in scams or other dangerous activities.
Children can sometimes be tricked into paying into scams either by players in games or by the games themselves via microtransactions. Money can be used to get ahead in certain games but should only be used if approved by a parent and if the game is run by a reputable source.
Hackers can send links or malware to kids which can then put viruses on your computer, stealing your personal information and putting your security at risk. These can be shared by links, emails, file sharing, or webpages and children are particularly vulnerable when they follow pages or links from sources they do not know.
There is no reason to keep your kid out of the online gaming loop, however. Plenty of strategies exist to keep your child and the rest of your family safe from the dangers of the internet while online gaming.
1. Never give out personal information.
Building friendships online is perfectly fine, but make sure your child knows never to give out personal information, either on their gaming profiles or in chat to other players. This not only includes information about themselves, like their name, location, phone number, or school, but it includes information about their accounts, such as passwords, emails, bank account numbers, or anything else.
Be sure to also warn them about phishing. This is when a scammer poses as someone official, such as a game administrator or a chat moderator, looking for information regarding your child’s account. When your child signs up for a service or game, they will always receive an email from that game’s official team. This email will usually provide details on their official modes of communication. Anything else is a scam phishing for personal information.
2. Keep software up to date.
Always keep your computer up to date, along with any virus protection and security software. You should have virus protection on any device that your child plays on. This not only allows your child’s games to play more smoothly, but it closes the door for any bugs to get in that might slip through the cracks of even the safest behavior.
3. Monitor all microtransactions.
This is key for multiple reasons. Of course, you want to know what your child is spending on their games. But secondly, this gives you an opportunity to see if the transaction is legitimate. Always research the games and companies that you are paying to ensure that they are not scam operations, and monitor your credit card afterwards to ensure that these transactions are not repeated. Be sure to block any games that are suspicious from your child’s computer or console.
4. Keep track of what games your kids are playing.
Do research on your kids’ favorite games. Look at the ratings and reviews. Most games will have a section on their webpage just for parents that goes over safety and security, but also be sure to review feedback from other parents as well. It is also important to review age ratings to ensure the game is appropriate for your child’s age group, and make sure they are aware of any warnings that the game may have.
You can also set parental controls to ensure that your kids aren’t playing any games that you have not approved. All consoles have this feature, and you will want to ensure that you set it for each console as many games are available across multiple platforms.
5. Discuss the risks with your child.
The worst thing your child can be is unaware. Go over these risks with your child, and tell them how important it is that they follow your rules and these safety tips. If you find that your child is having trouble engaging in safe behaviors online, it may be time to limit their online play or to monitor them more closely. They should know that gaming is a privilege, and understand it can be taken away at any time. It’s most important to have open communication with your child, so that they feel they can come to you if they feel unsafe or if they have made a mistake. As long as that communication is there, online gaming should be a fun hobby that can help them develop teamwork and problem solving skills for years to come!