|Online games are played using a computer, a console, or a mobile phone and enable people to communicate and play with other players from around the world / Photo by: Serwa27 via Wikimedia Commons|
Online games are played using a computer, a console, or a mobile phone and enable people to communicate and play with other players from around the world, according to internet safety platform WebWise.ie. Online gaming may enable a person to develop cooperation skills, formulate strategies, help new players, and take on leadership roles.
Most of all, it is a source of recreation and entertainment for children. Online gaming is a virtual playground and, just like its physical counterpart, also poses risks to children if parents fail to be vigilant. Parents should educate themselves and their kids on how to protect themselves in the realm of online gaming.
Types of Online Gaming
1. Web Games and Apps
These types of online games can be played through various websites or applications downloaded to smartphones and tablets. They also include games played via social media websites such as Facebook.
2. Console Games
These refer to games played on consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox, the Sony PlayStation, and the Nintendo Switch. Games can be purchased in a physical store or downloaded online.
3. Mobile Games
Games that can be played and downloaded into a mobile phone. Many mobile games are free, but players may choose to engage in microtransactions within the game to help them progress or “gain additional functionality.”
4. Handheld Games
Nintendo Switch Lite and the Nintendo DS/3DS enable gamers to bring their games anywhere and offer a more powerful platform compared to mobile phones and tablets.
|Games that can be played and downloaded into a mobile phone. Many mobile games are free, but players may choose to engage in microtransactions within the game to help them progress or “gain additional functionality” / Photo by: jackinboxs via Pixabay|
Out of Control
In a press release, public-private joint internet safety initiative Get Safe Online found that 37 percent of parents feel like they have no control over their kids’ online gaming. Moreover, 51 percent of them expressed concern about their children’s safety when playing games online.
In a survey of 2,000 parents with children aged 5 to 18, 91 percent said their kids play online games. Most of them impose a time limit on their children’s screen time while 34 percent admitted that their kids play at least once a day. As for devices, 62 percent of parents said their children play on tablets, while 47 percent had children who use mobile phones. Given the aforementioned figures, Get Safe Online concluded that a child’s behavior is often out of their parents’ view.
This can be dangerous considering that 25 percent of parents are aware of their child disclosing personal information when gaming with other people online. Furthermore, 34 percent said their children have spoken to a stranger online and 28 percent said their kids made friends within the online gaming community. Lastly, 16 percent of parents know that online gaming communities can be used as a platform for their children to be verbally abused or bullied.
|In a press release, public-private joint internet safety initiative Get Safe Online found that 37 percent of parents feel like they have no control over their kids’ online gaming / Photo by: ArtificialOG via Pixabay|
Risks of Online Gaming
1. Inappropriate Content – some games are not appropriate for your child, making them more vulnerable to violent or sexual images.
2. Abuse and Harassment – in multiplayer mode, your child will be facing off with other players from all over the world and or talk to them via the game’s messaging system. Players can be subjected to abuse and harassment, usually perpetrated by gamers when the game becomes heated.
3. Pay to Play – players can purchase in-game items in online games. It’s optional but it can be easy for players to buy an item and quickly rack up bills on microtransactions.
How to Keep Your Child Safe While Playing Online Games
Play With Your Child
Online safety experts at internet safety group Internet Matters recommend parents play online games with their kids to understand their risks and benefits, reported Joanna Whitehead of Russian-owned British newspaper The Independent.
According to Internet Matters’ report “Parenting Generation Game,” 55 percent of parents said they are worried about strangers approaching their kids via online gaming platforms, while 38 percent are unsure “who their children are playing with online.” On the other hand, 62 percent of them acknowledged that online games help develop their child’s problem-solving skills. Internet Matters’ gaming expert Andy Robertson said “that the range of games on offer is huge.” If you get involved with your child’s online gaming ventures, you will be able to capitalize on the benefits and celebrate their gaming successes.
Converse With Your Child
Charity NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) suggested having regular conversations with your child about online safety. Try to establish a middle ground on the type of games they are allowed to play and help them understand why some are inappropriate. Remind your child that they can talk to you or an adult if they see or hear something disturbing. Also, ensure that they are aware of the threats “and the right gaming practices” per the recommendation of CEO of Gate Safe Online Tony Neate.
Activate Safety Settings
You don’t want your child to purchase random items in a game. Hence, it is recommended to disable in-app purchases on your device. You can also toggle the safety settings on some games to prevent strangers from contacting your child and control what other players can see about them.
Most importantly, your child should learn how to mute, block, or report anyone who makes them uncomfortable or upset. It’s okay to make friends, but your child should practice discretion when gaming online.