At some point in your child’s teenage years, they will play video games. It’s inevitable. Whether they are playing recreationally with friends, playing for entertainment alone or entering esports competitions, at some point, they will play video games. Today, video games are way more accessible than they used to be.
You no longer need a gaming console to play video games, you can play on any computer. While you may have memories of lining up at your nearest electronic store to buy Sega Genesis, today you can purchase video games online in seconds.
All this is to say that with all this access to video games that include real-time communication with peers and strangers, it is critical to ensure that you keep your child safe while gaming.
This article will share five tips to help keep your teens safe while gaming.
1. Understand the games your teens are playing
There are over 5 million games that your teens can choose from. That is a huge number of games! While it’s not realistic to learn about even one percent of the titles, knowing what games your teens are playing will serve you well in the long run. Before they play, or if they already play, take some time to do some research on the games. Find out how the game works, where the game is played, what the goal of the game is, if there is an in-game currency, if there is in-game communication, etc. The more you know, the better.
Without any knowledge, it can feel like you and your child are living in different worlds! Just like movies, each video game has its own game rating. Pay attention to the game rating to understand if the level is appropriate for your teen. Knowing what games your teen plays and how they communicate with others while playing is an important part of keeping them safe. You can’t keep them safe if you don’t know what they are doing.
2. Set up privacy and security settings
When setting up your teen’s gaming accounts, take advantage of the privacy and security settings. If they already have their accounts set up, take some time to review the settings with them to ensure their accounts are set up in the most secure way. In some games, you are able to select who your teens speak to, (i.e. friends only) as well as setting up security settings which include two-factor authentication.
When setting up these accounts, talk to your teen about the importance of keeping their personal information private. Explain what information they cannot share online and why. If they understand the dangers associated with sharing private information, they will be less likely to do so.
3. Set boundaries around online communication
We have come a long way in the video gaming industry —from graphics to the in-game communication, gaming is no longer a solo sport. Many parents believe that video games are isolating or that they encourage anti-social behavior, but in fact, video games are now very social.
While in-game voice and text communication are one of the positive impacts of gaming, it can also lead to cyberbullying, grooming by online predators, financial scams and privacy violations. So, how do you keep your children safe from the unwanted treats that can come from time spent gaming online?
Speaking to your child about the different types of people they encounter online is very important. By explaining the risks associated with talking about strangers online, they will be better prepared and know how to handle difficult situations. Set boundaries around who and where your teens can chat. For example, no private chats with strangers, no video chatting with people they don’t know, etc. Ensure that they know that they can and should always come to you if they are uncomfortable with someone they are speaking to online.
4. Encourage and model good digital citizenship
Teaching your teen to be a good digital citizen now falls into the parenting department! It will keep them safe online and help them make positive choices in all aspects of their lives. As parents, you know that your child is always watching you. Ensure that you model positive digital citizenship for your teens to follow. Not sure where to begin? A few important things to teach your children include:
- Privacy doesn’t exist online: Anything can be shared with anyone online. Sharing something online means that it is no longer private. Ensure that your teen understands that they should never share private information online.
- Be mindful of who you spend time with online: There is a difference between friends and online friends. While your teen may feel like they know someone because they are online friends, it’s possible that they aren’t who they say they are. Additionally, they may connect with peers online who only speak to them online and not in real life. Speak to your teen about who they interact with and how to navigate these relationships.
- Remind your teen to be truthful: Online, it’s easy to say you’re someone you’re not, say you have something you don’t, or fabricate any form of information. Teach your child to be truthful online.
- Act as you would IRL: Be kind, be helpful, be supportive. Sometimes it may feel easier to remain quiet when your teen sees something they don’t like instead of being an upstander. Talk to your child about standing up when they see something they don’t like, in real life and online.
5. Use a protective monitoring software
Using a protective monitoring software can help provide insights and alerts to keep your teens safe. ProtectMe by *Kidas is a software that runs silently in the background of your child’s computer to analyze in-game communication. ProtectMe gives parents the peace of mind needed to let teens play video games, while ensuring they are safe.
Each week, ProtectMe sends weekly reports to alert parents of any threats their child was exposed to while gaming. Threats include cyberbullying, hate speech, flaming, sexual content, privacy violations, online predators and more. The report also includes screen time analytics that compares gaming time from one week to the next.
The best part is that when you receive an alert, you also receive support. Each report includes recommendations written by experts to provide parents with the support needed to handle the threat that the teen was exposed to. *Kidas monitors more than 100 of the most popular games including Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft and social gaming apps such as Discord.
Keeping your child safe while playing video games may feel like a huge undertaking. Using these tips will help guide you with where to begin and using protective monitoring software is a great way to keep your child protected in the long run. Each of these tips will help you keep the lines of communication open with your teen. As we keep mentioning, knowledge is key!
By gaining access through ProtectMe to resources that inform you of any threats, resources that educate you on gaming trends, insights into the time your child spends gaming and more, you will be better equipped to talk to your child about gaming. This will not only help you keep your child safe and keep the lines of communication open, but it will also strengthen your relationship with your teen.
If you are interested in learning more about ProtectMe by *Kidas, visit www.kidas.net and sign up for a 30-day free trial.
-Authored by Jenna Greenspoon, Kidas Head of Parenting.
Is your teen addicted to video gaming or the internet? Have you exhausted your local resources, your teen refuses to see a counselor? Has outpatient treatment failed? Is the school setting not working for them? Do you feel like they are falling deeper into a depression or worse? Contact us to learn about the benefits of therapeutic boarding schools for digital addiction.
*Post is a not an endorsement from P.U.R.E™ and we do not receive monies from Kidas.