I love video games. They tend to get a pretty bad rap, but video games can be a fun (and often challenging) way for kids to spend their free time. Spending too much time on any screen can lead to tech addiction, but when played in moderation, video games help kids develop creative problem-solving skills, increase hand-eye coordination, and relieve anxiety and stress.
Video games are also a great way to connect with faraway friends and family. All it takes to play with friends from around the world is a solid Internet connection. I live abroad, and when I’m missing my friends in the United States, we’ll boot up our Nintendo Switches and play a round or two of Mario Kart. I think it’s wild that we can spend time together, even when separated by an ocean.
However, playing online isn’t always fun and games. There are some inherent risks of online gaming that parents should be aware of, including early exposure to inappropriate language, contact with strangers, and cyberbullying.
Thankfully, these threats are easy to avoid—all it takes is a little guidance. That’s why we at Troomi put together this list of online gaming safety tips to help your kids stay safe as they play online. Let’s dive right in!
Five Online Gaming Safety Tips
Playing video games should be a safe experience. With these five online gaming safety tips, your child can enjoy playing online with limited risk.
Set Up Parental Controls
Just like Troomi phones, most online games feature parental controls that adults can use to help their kids remain safe as they play. These controls usually include chat filters that ban explicit language and the option to set a time limit. Parental controls also give you the power to decide who your kids can connect with online.
Before your child plays online, do some research on their chosen game. Study up on the parental controls, and learn what options they offer. If the parental controls aren’t up to snuff, it may be time for your kiddo to find a safer game.
Know Who You’re Chatting With
Many online games require players to strategize with a team. If your kiddo is into real-time strategy games like League of Legends or Pokemon Unite, they likely want to discuss their plan with teammates through audio or video chat. This is no big deal when playing with friends and family, and can actually help kids develop social skills.
Chatting with strangers, however, is a different beast. Many online games connect players from around the world. When gamers don’t have a team of friends to play with, the game places them in an impromptu team with other single players. One teammate could be a teen from down the street, but it’s just as likely that another is a fifty-year old mom from East Baltimore.
Teach your kids to refrain from chatting with strangers as they play, even if they’re teammates. Just as chat rooms and message boards are dangerous places for kids, online game chat can expose them to inappropriate language and connect them with unsavory individuals. If you feel that your child is mature enough to maneuver online chat, remind them to be wise about it. They should refrain from sharing personal information and keep the topic to strategizing the opposing team’s defeat.
Make a Smart Username
Sharing personal information with strangers is never a good idea, especially online. That’s why it’s important to keep identifying info, like your child’s name and date of birth, out of their online username. For instance, a child named Gregory T. who was born in 2010 should not use the name GregT2010. Hackers can use info like this to learn more about your child, answer account security questions, and ultimately compromise your child’s data by accessing their personal accounts.
Before your kiddo boots up the computer, sit down with them and come up with a creative username. The username could be based on their favorite animal or an outdoor activity they love. You can even get the whole family involved in the brainstorming session! Just remember: the most secure usernames contain a mix of characters, numbers, and uppercase letters.
Report Online Cyberbullies
Games aren’t the only thing that have transitioned to a digital platform—bullying has, as well.
Cyberbullying is a massive issue for today’s kids, and it runs rampant in online games. In fact, studies report that over 52% of MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) players experience frequent cyberbullying. Video game cyberbullying comes in many forms: rude players may make nasty comments in chat, while others might destroy your child’s hard-earned items and digital creations.
Digital bullying can be upsetting and difficult for kids to process. It can also make them feel unsafe as they play online. If your child is dealing with harassment, remind them that it isn’t their fault. Then, help them report the offender. Reporting bullies to the game’s moderators is the quickest and easiest way to nip a cyberbullying problem in the bud and help your child feel safe as they play.
Don’t Hesitate to Block
Sometimes, reporting a cyberbully for harassment doesn’t work. That’s where the block button comes in.
Blocking is one of the best ways to maintain your child’s online safety. Most online games allow kids to inhibit other players from contacting them with one click of the block button. When your child blocks another player, that person is unable to send them a message, run into them in-game, or see their online activity. Basically, the game treats blocked players as if they never existed.
Cyberbullying happens in more places than just video games, however. It can also happen on your child’s cell phone through texts, phone calls, and social media interactions. That’s why smartphones from Troomi Wireless are dedicated to stopping cyberbullying before it begins. Check out this article to learn more!
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Video games are intellectually stimulating and artfully created, but they’re also pretty dang fun. Playing with friends online is an especially great way for kids to build social skills and develop stronger friendships. Just remind your children to follow Troomi’s online gaming safety tips to ensure that their time online is constructive, enjoyable, and safe as can be.