You walk your children to school, and you watch over them as they play outside. In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with your children’s safety. In that light, it’s surprising how many parents allow their kids to play video games without really checking into the games’ user ratings, the type of content they have and whether or not they’re appropriate for children.
Modern parents now have worries beyond the game itself. Most popular games have moved out of the home and have taken up residence on the social Web. Know how to protect your kids when they play online video games.
With a Wii, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, your children can log in to the Internet via Wi-Fi and play along virtually with their friends. Unless parents are up to date on Internet privacy, your children will come into contact with more than their fair share of strangers.
This article will focus on what parents should be aware of when their kids are playing online games and on how to protect your children in these virtual environments.
Monitor your children in the privacy of your home.
No matter the age of their kids, parents need to stay involved in their children’s lives. Because of society’s heavy reliance on the Internet, parents can’t rest assured their children are safe just because they’re at home.
Online gaming is a prime example of an activity that must be monitored by parents. Be sure that the game console is located in an area that you have access to and is not behind closed doors. While your children play games, be available to observe their use.
Parental controls are built into the game console, allowing you to restrict how long your children play or to eliminate the ability for them to go online. In much the same way you shouldn’t feel comfortable letting them use a computer behind closed doors, you should be controlling the content and duration of their online gaming.
Educate yourself on user ratings and restrictions.
Reading up on the user ratings and age restrictions of games is just common sense.
Age restrictions are marked clearly on the back of the box and are there to protect your children from viewing inappropriate content. Many popular games have amounts of nudity and violence that you would not want to expose to your small children.
If the game supports an online environment, read the user policies for online play on Xbox, Wii or the PlayStation 3 websites. In addition, you may want to consult the website for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a nonprofit organization that enforces advertisers’ guidelines and independently rates products.
Protect your child’s Internet privacy.
Many online video games now include live chat rooms and voice-to-voice interfaces. If you allow your children to participate in these online activities, be sure to instruct them how to protect their digital privacy.
User Name and Avatar
Never allow your children to give out any personal information, including their real name, address, phone numbers or email address, while chatting online. Games generally require a user name and avatar.
Create user names and avatars that mask the fact that it’s a child playing online, and never use personal photos or real names. Online predators can use even the smallest piece of personal information to gain access to your child’s true identity. Know how to protect your kids when they play online video games.
If the online game allows for voice-to-voice chatting, you can now purchase a headset that will allow your child to talk to other players.
If you’re going to allow your child to chat online, you should activate the voice changing option that comes with the game. Voice masking will disguise your child’s voice, ensuring his or her online privacy. In addition, when your child plays online, you can use the mute button to deaden the chatter coming from other players.
Control cyberbullying during online gaming.
Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground. Online bullying is a serious issue and can have adverse effects on your child’s emotional development.
Bullying can also take place during online video gaming, especially when voice chat is activated. Problems can occur if those who are harassing your child know his or her true identity. Inappropriate content can spread across the Internet like wildfire, having the potential to harm your child’s online reputation both now and in the future.
Let your children know that reporting trash talking and aggressive behavior is the right thing to do. Some games allow you to block or report offensive players, ensuring your child never has to play with them again. The user guide should also provide you with contact information should you have a problem with an online game, and you can take steps to prevent the person responsible for the inappropriate content from playing altogether.
Protect your child and your peace of mind.
Spending a few hours playing video games with your children can be more than fun; it can be an enlightening experience. Privacy controls are in place to protect your children in online environments, but it’s up to you to teach them the skills to manage their interactions with virtual strangers.
Know how to protect your kids when they play online video games.