In this digital age, even gaming has been digitized. Various games can be accessed and enjoyed by children online. Free or paid, like in traditional gaming, such online/video games come in different forms – from adventure simulation mobile app games to interactive video games to equipment-operated online gaming. With the cool features and the accessibility of the platforms, children nowadays are too much into video or online gaming.
However, like any other form of entertainment, gaming has to be done in moderation, especially when it comes to online games for kids. This is because video games – especially those with escalating levels of difficulties or those that can be virtually played with other people – can be addictive. Some games might also not be 100% kid-friendly and/or can cause long-term adverse effects. To better know which effective precautionary measures to take, let’s further understand the possible dangers of video/online gaming for kids.
The Risks & Dangers of Online Gaming For Kids
Like any other activity, users can do with their electronic gadget or device, video and online gaming has their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. This is especially true for children or younger audiences who aren’t yet mature enough to grasp certain video games content or aren’t yet responsible enough to limit or moderate their gaming time/habit.
Not all online gaming websites or applications have stringent enough security protocols or safety nets. Also, not all online games have built-in parental controls. So, there’s no denying certain dangers are lurking in these so-called online or video games. Here are some of those.
Video Game Addiction
Children, being naturally curious, can get easily hooked to exciting or intriguing stuff like online video games. Especially those online video games that have colorful, animated, interactive, or intuitive interfaces. There are also online games specifically created for children or kids, so the overall theme could catch children’s attention or appeal to their taste.
However, since such video games target their audience’s tastes and preferences, gaming could get easily addictive. This is specifically true if the children’s gaming routines aren’t properly regulated and/or the kids’ gaming habits have no proper guidance from adults.
Contact With Strangers
Online video games have built-in or inclusive chat rooms where players get to communicate and interact while gaming. When children are video gaming, they may be targeted by child predators masking their true identities within the online games using catchy usernames, snappy characters, or cool avatars.
Online predators, especially those who intend to target children, are now also taking advantage of video games. Hence, there’s a possibility they could fall victim to such malicious acts without them initially realizing, thinking they just earned yet new gamer friends.
Several users are questioning the security protocols and privacy settings of most online gaming platforms. This is because not all online games are appropriate for kids or at least have optional gaming parental control features.
Though not all, some gaming platforms require membership registration or account creation wherein users are required to disclose personal information. If children aren’t careful enough, they might unintentionally disclose such confidential data while gaming or be targeted for data breaches/data exploitation while gaming.
Several online video games for children offer free registration or account creation. However, there are often offers for new online maps, new gaming features, or new in-app games which can be availed of for certain fees or online gems that need to be bought using fiat money.
And children being children, they’d be easily enticed by such offers, especially if it would mean leveling up their gaming or experiencing more awesome gaming features. If the account is linked to your bank/card information, be prepared then for additional charges.
Online gaming or virtual video games are popular not only with kids but with players of all ages. Unfortunately, the popularity of such online gaming platforms is the same reason why hackers intentionally target these as venues for their malicious acts.
Hackers typically mask malicious apps or infected links within the games, luring children into clicking and/or downloading them. The malicious software will not only compromise the games but can penetrate and compromise the device, network, and/or data.
What Parents Can Do
With the entertainment and certain benefits these online video games offer, there’s no doubt children are very much hooked to popular online games. Plus, children are naturally bound to play games and online gaming is of no exemption. Hence, not because online games are susceptible to certain dangers, you should completely prohibit your kids from online video gaming.
Here are some precautionary measures you can take – as parents or guardians – to somehow mitigate the risks of online gaming.
Enable Parental Controls
Several online video games are programmed with built-in privacy settings and security protocols. To make your children’s online gaming safer, be sure to enable such parental controls. There could be slight differences in the process, depending on the online games or the gaming platforms, but in most cases, these settings can be enabled or activated within the Settings page.
Parental controls are meant to protect children and provide a fun but secure gaming experience. These comprise a myriad of security settings, including:
- Screen time limit
- Content filters
- Stranger or unknown contact blocks
- Auto-delete suggestive or illicit media content
- In-app purchase disabling feature
- Third-party app or site blocking
- Keylogger feature
- Real-time alerts for inappropriate words
Discuss Video Game Safety With Your Children
Parenting through calm and positive communication is still one of the best techniques. You can apply this tip when it comes to your children’s online gaming habits. By merely initiating an in-depth discussion of essential matters related to online video games, you’re equipping them with the proper knowledge and the right tools, making them capable of protecting themselves.
Sit down and talk with your children at their level of understanding. Calmly and patiently discuss with them everything they need to know about video games, including:
- The pros and cons of online games.
- The dangers lurking in gaming platforms.
- Their limits and boundaries, and the reasons for such.
- The basic online etiquette your children must observe.
Play Games Together
Aside from equipping your children with proper video games safety gear or equipment and proper online gaming knowledge, nothing beats hands-on parenting. As you might have already proven true in other situations, being physically present in your kids’ life can go a long way in developing their positive traits. Hence, the same trick might as well do wonders when it comes to their online games time.
Playing games with your children can help you ensure their privacy, safety, and security. You can better oversee their activities, engagements, and interactions. Plus, you can identify and address issues in real-time. Moreover, you get to spend some quality time with your kids which is one of the most important things for their personality and character development.
Set-Up Their Gaming Account
The first rule when you decide to allow your children to play online video games or access online gaming platforms is to set up their account. By doing so, you can better ensure the following:
- No disclosure of sensitive or confidential information within their gaming profiles.
- Only appropriate, positive, light, and/or educational games are accessible.
- Possible loopholes and vulnerabilities are patched (if possible).
- Available security protocols and safety nets are activated.
Some games allow linking to parental accounts for better access and control. If possible, be sure to create their profiles using your personal account.