Secure your child’s online gaming – tips for parents.
Online gaming is a popular pastime in different parts of the world. The average household in the US owns at least one dedicated game console, PC, or smartphone, according to data from the Entertainment Software Association. While online gaming provides quality social interaction, there is a darker side. There are many concerns when it comes to playing video games online, ranging from cyberbullying to internet predators.
Through online multiplayer video games and chat apps, sexual predators and other characters of ill intent have found an easy access point into the lives of young people. Cybercriminals often pose as kids and confide in their victims with false stories of self-loathing and hardships. They start conversations and build up trust gradually with the goal of duping young gamers into sharing sexually explicit pictures and videos of themselves.
Upon receiving the pictures or videos, these individuals will use the imagery to blackmail their victims to send more videos and photos threatening to expose their photos if they don’t comply. The FBI even warned parents of the uptick of ‘Sextortion’ cases on gaming sites where adults contact and entice minors to share compromising pictures of themselves. The scale and frequency of these incidents in the United States are unprecedented.
Protecting your children from online predators
As a parent, the most important thing you can do to protect your children from online predators is to introduce the subject of online safety at a young age and build upon that as your young ones grow.
This increases the likelihood of the kids coming to you with alarms or issues of concern when they are old enough to understand risks. Your kids will also be better prepared to handle threats in the world of online gaming. That being said, here are a few additional tips to help keep your children safe when playing online games with friends and strangers from all over the world.
Keep it age-appropriate
Before you hand over that connected device to a child, make sure that it’s age-appropriate. Take into account the age and maturity of your child and make sure that they only play age-appropriate games. Most gaming devices come with safety settings, which you can use to ensure that your kid doesn’t participate in online games meant for older children. Establish safeguards that match the kid’s level of maturity to keep them safe online.
Discourage information sharing
Teach your kids about the risks of sharing personal information with strangers in the online gaming world. Insist that your kids avail the bare minimum when it comes to sharing personal information online. Prohibit the sharing of bios, videos, images, and where they live or go to school with strangers on online gaming platforms.
Explore the game environment
Take some time to explore the game environment of the online games your children want to play. That will give you a chance to experience first-hand the style of one-on-one interaction as well as the levels of violence between gamers. Children should never be left to explore the gaming world on their own, especially if they are young.
Teach your kids that their ‘gaming friends’ are still strangers
Online gaming allows participants to break away from reality and feign different identities. An online predator may assume the identity of a child and some can easily assume the identities of older youths. Your child may develop an inappropriate friendship with an older person pretending to be a child. They might even try to connect and make contact in real life.
Use a safe username
Teach your child the importance of anonymity in the online gaming world. Show them how to choose a safe username or nickname to use in the gaming environment. The username should never include your full name, date of birth, contact information, etc. If you must use a picture, tell your children to choose avatars that do not show their faces or provide any personal information.
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) offer a high level of privacy and security for online activities. The app will allow you to mask your IP address and protect you from DDoS attacks and other online threats. A VPN provides security and enhances your gaming experience, making it more enjoyable to play your favorite games online.
The online gaming world can be a dangerous place for your child. There are online predators looking to bond with younger gamers and build trust with them hoping that they will share photos and videos of themselves. These online predators are typically older gamers using video games to lure and blackmail their victims. Helping your children understand the risks of online gaming will help you keep them safe from bad actors in the online gaming environment.
Matthew Stern is a technology content strategist at TechFools, a tech blog aiming at informing readers about the potential dangers of technology and introducing them to the best ways to protect themselves online.
As a tech enthusiast and an advocate for digital freedom, Matthew is dedicated to introducing his readers to the latest technology trends and teaching them how to gain control over their digital lives.