When we think about online video gaming dangers, many of us immediately consider the obvious threats of violence, aggressive behaviors, short attention spans, and lack of physical activities. While all of these are valid concerns, parents often overlook unknown dangers lurking behind our sons’ and daughters’ beloved online video games.
It doesn’t matter whether our children are scrolling through social media games, logging on with a computer, or signing into the gaming world with a console, current data shows that 91 percent, or 64 million, of our kids (aged 2 to 17 year old) play video games in some form. The number of gamers has jumped significantly from 78 percent that was reported back in 2009. Many experts contribute this climb in numbers to the introduction of Smartphones, tablets, and handheld gaming systems.
If our sons and daughters are participating any form of online gaming, they are exposed to some real threats. The advent of social media, instant messaging, and modern headsets has enabled our kids to interact with friends and even complete strangers within their favorite games. At first glance this doesn’t appear to be dangerous. Afterall, what’s so bad about chatting with fellow players? However, when we peel back layers of pixelated content, we might find surprising unknown dangers.
Four Common Online Video Gaming Threats:
Online Predators: Unfortunately, many predators are turning to online games to find new victims. Gaming is the perfect hunting ground for innocent victims to make contact with and groom. Often, predators create a fake profile to gain a child’s trust by changing their age, sex, and name. This technique makes it easier to gain trust and build a relationship with a child that can eventually lead to exchanging sexts, videos, or meeting in real life.
Legal Repercussions: During game play it isn’t uncommon to talk “smack” or insult other players. Unfortunately, if a child’s comments are seen as threatening, they can be prosecuted for issuing terroristic threats. Even if it is tied in with the game or play, threats in today’s society are taken seriously.
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is becoming more rampant among the online video gaming world’s adult free areas with little fear of tracing digital tracks back to the bully. Anonymous games and user id’s offer little protection, because the authorities have the ability and know how to track down players by using cell phones, profiles, and even the address of people who pay the bill.
Addiction: Online games allow our kids to experience a wide array of activities and journeys. However, some people, adults included, become so immersed in the fictional game that they can forget to eat or sleep. Excessive gaming has the potential to disrupt a player’s ability to function and has the potential to turn into an addiction.
Protecting Children From Online Video Game Dangers
Realizing that our daughters’ and sons’ connectivity and gaming habits could be opening them up to online dangers is sobering. To make matters worse, research points out that 70 percent of our children will seek ways to cover their digital activity. So what is a parent to do?
Thankfully, here are six proactive measures we can take to help protect our children while allowing them to be engaged in their favorite games:
Start a conversation about online dangers and social media etiquette. Strive to help kids feel comfortable talking to us about any problem they encounter. In addition, teach children to never meet someone they have only met online.
Implement parental controls and passwords on certain sites or computers. Depending on the age of the child, you can filter access to online games. Make sure your children understand the reasoning behind your concerns.
Help children set up accounts, profiles, and user names. Far too often, kids use their real names on their gamertags or include their physical location on profiles. Encourage children to use creative names or avatars that don’t give away their age, sex, name, or address.
Keep games and devices in common areas of the home. If a family member can walk in at any given moment, children might make better choices.
Create a technology contract that includes online gaming. As a family, state all expectations and consequences for gaming. This will keep everyone informed and happily playing.
Encourage children to play online games with people they actually know in real life. By sticking with friends, children are less likely to meet predators or strangers with hidden agendas.
What methods does your family use to protect children from online game dangers? What other concerns do you have that you aren’t sure to handle? Feel free to share your thoughts below.