Video games are a way of life for many families. The positive effects of gaming are too numerous to count. Gaming gives families a chance to play together and enjoy priceless family time. Kids learn critical life skills from gaming, such as problem-solving, creative thinking, cooperation, and persistence. When our family spends time gaming together, it gives us the opportunity to teach our children about failure, and trying again, while celebrating their successes. It shows our children how to cheer each other on, and compete with each other in a fair, kind way. The Journal of Adolescent Research claims video game players have a higher level of family closeness, activity involvement, attachment to school, and positive mental health.
And yet, there is a prevalent fear among parents and caregivers that gaming is a negative or scary medium for our children. Many of these concerns deal with fear of the unknown. Parents who are not familiar with gaming are unsure of how to navigate this foreign world. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a relatively new trend among child predators is to find children through online gaming. This news could shock parents, or make them want to cut off all gaming activity. However, the benefits of gaming are powerful, and removing games completely is not necessarily a wise option. So how can we ensure our kids are protected, while still allowing them to enjoy the fun and benefits of social gaming? A site with good advice on how to stay safe online is the National Cyber Security Alliance. But here’s a quick and easy list of tips and tricks to keep your kids safe while they are enjoying their gaming experience!
Gaming Safety Tips for Parents and Children:
- If your child is playing games on a computer (desktop or laptop) make sure it is protected by up-to-date security software, such as a firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-spyware software.
- Make sure you are involved in the creation of your child’s gaming profile, and are aware of all passwords. When creating passwords, ensure they have at least eight characters, a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Instead of using your child’s actual photo, use an avatar on his or her profile.
- Before beginning a game, make sure your webcam is not activated.
- Talk to your children about privacy online. Tell them they should not give any personal information to anyone they play games with online, unless you know them in real life. This includes your child’s real name, age, address, and contact information.
- If another player is making your child feel uncomfortable, make sure your child is aware that they should leave the game and tell a grownup they trust immediately. Parents should learn how to block and/or report other players. Do not engage them, but do save a record of what they may have said.
- Talk about online bullying with your child. Make sure they understand that what is said online doesn’t necessarily stay online, and that they are aware of good gamer behavior.
- Learn all you can about gaming and the games your children enjoy playing. Gaming is an enjoyable family activity, and when you are participating in the game, it is much less likely your child will have negative issues with other players. Also, by gaming with your child, you are establishing they are being supervised by an adult.
- Remember, gaming is meant to be an entertaining and educational experience, one that can help children grow critical life skills. Approach gaming safety the same way you would approach the safety issues of any recreational activity. If you know the rewards, learn the risks, and take the proactive steps listed above, you will ensure gaming time is always a fun time.