Today I am going to provide you with information on the realities of online predators and how to keep your children safe when they are gaming. Online gaming is one of the most popular ways that game systems are used today. Not only do you get to talk real time to your online teammates, but you can trash talk to your “enemies” either using your voice or a chat feature. This level of interaction allows users to develop friendships, but it also opens the door for predators to befriend your children. So how do you protect your children without taking them away from their game systems? Let’s look at some expert recommendations.
- Learn the game system, the games, and the communications features. Yes, YOU, the parent. Just because you have no interest or skill in the arena of online gaming does not mean you do not need to under the features and capabilities of the systems, games, etc. Did you know that 94% of all gaming console traffic to PornHub come from Xbox and PlayStation systems? Did you know that those systems even allowed web surfing? THIS is why you need to sit down and get to know the system you have in your home.
- Use the parental controls. Each gaming system comes with features to allow parents to set limits on game ratings; online browsing; in-game purchases. Research the system and SET THEM UP! It is also recommended to do a search on “backdoor” workarounds that tech-savvy children use to get around parental restrictions and how you can disable that option! And if your children are very young, you can choose NOT to put your gaming system online.
- TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN OPENLY AND HONESTLY about online gaming and the potential negative behaviors they may encounter. Make sure they understand that online anonymity is not anonymous and absolutely is not permission for they themselves to be jerks. Your children need to understand that you know how the systems operate and what types of interactions occur in multiplayer games, so if they run into a negative experience or “someone weird”, they know they can trust you to understand and help.
- Location, location, location! Set up the gaming system in a public part of the home and establish clear use limits. While privacy is an important aspect in everyone’s life, allowing young children to “hide” their online gaming activities in the basement rec room or their own bedroom provides a greater risk of “secret” behavior.
- Understand the game ratings. If you do not understand the rating, you cannot understand the online game community your child is joining. Each game that your child has will have a rating on the package, EC for “early childhood” through AO for “adults only”. This is a limit you need to establish with your children from the get-go as to what ratings are appropriate.
- Resist the urge to classify gaming as a waste of time or that they are just for losers that will live in their parents’ basement forever. Your child should never feel that you do not understand or support their interests. Online gaming is a HUGE community that for man is a place of acceptance and understanding. A place that people can more freely be themselves because there is a sense of anonymity. Show an interest in the games that they play, the friends/teammates/quest mates that they have, etc.
- Tell your children it is NEVER okay to exchange real-life information online. This means not telling their teammates/quest mates what town/city they live in; the name of their school; their real name; their phone numbers, etc. It also means absolutely no sharing of photos!