This article was contributed by Jennifer Geller of Savvy Cyber Kids, a nonprofit organization promoting cyber ethics and safety. If you’d like to contribute to the Skillshot blog, please DM Skillshot Media on Twitter.
If your child is a fan of video games, they have likely played or are aware of multiplayer games. These types of games allow friends and strangers from anywhere in the world (as long as they can get an internet connection) to play together in a single game — with countless other games happening at the same time. If your child is a fan of multiplayer online games, and you’re wondering how to keep them safe without stinting their fun, here’s what you need to know.
Start and continue the Tech Talk. Private information about your child should remain, well, private. Their gamer tag should not reveal their name, age, or gender. They should never reveal where they live or what school they go to. Email addresses, phone numbers, photos of their face, and gaming account passwords are also off-limits. Be sure that your child understands you are always available to step in if someone makes them feel uncomfortable while playing a game.
Stranger danger is still something you need to teach your kids but in a new way. Your child should understand that they should never accept an invitation to communicate with another gamer they do not know on a non-gaming platform or app. Remind your child that a stranger is ALWAYS a stranger, even when online interactions may make them seem familiar. In the online world, you never truly know who is behind the screen. Most importantly, your child should never, EVER agree to meet up with a stranger offline.
Even as the intensity builds in a game, always remind your child to communicate with respect and empathy towards fellow players.
Set and share family time limits for gaming. Help your child proactively plan how they game. Watch your child’s gaming habits not from the number of hours played but by behavioral characteristics like withdrawal, compulsion, lying and a shift of values.
Understand the content of each game, before your child starts playing, and decide if it is appropriate for your child. Due diligence should include reading game reviews that may alert you to potential risks of each game or gaming platform. Depending on the age of your gamer, you may want to consider enabling some parental control options. Review what parental controls are available, especially the ones that further your child’s privacy while playing, are available in-game and on the gaming console your child uses.
Know that there is no pause button in live, online gaming! Asking your child to end an online game before a match is completed is akin to walking off the field in the middle of a Friday night football game.
Understand all the ways that strangers could interact with your child as they game. Many online games are designed with built-in voice/video/chat functions. As a parent, have conversations with your child about what he or she may hear, see, or experience in the gaming world. Also, let them know when they need to alert you for help. If your child encounters an incident that needs to be reported, make sure you know how to report inappropriate behavior that occurs on platforms and in games. This can include harassment, hate speech, and toxic language.
Make sure you know who your child is playing with and regularly review the nature of the communications.
The best way to learn more about online gaming is to play a game or two with your kids. Plus, you can show them their gaming world is not an alternative to real life, it’s just one fun aspect of it! In playing games with your child, you can also better explain your concerns to your gamer and in turn, they may develop a deeper understanding and respect for the limits you establish. Before you know it, you may find yourself understanding your child’s love of gaming and establishing quality time to level up together.
This article was contributed by Savvy Cyber Kids — a nonprofit organization providing free resources to help parents, grandparents, teachers, and students navigate today’s digital world with cyber safety and cyber ethics in mind. By day, Ben Halpert is the VP of Risk and Corporate Security at Ionic Security, Inc. By night, he champions cyber safety and cyber ethics education throughout society. Learn more about Savvy Cyber Kids on their website, and be sure to sign up for free material about internet and digital safety.