Keeping Kids Safe In the Online World of Gaming
How kids interact and socialize today has changed vastly from even a decade ago. Not only social networking, but the online gaming world has started to have a role in social development and social dynamics from a young age.
Online gaming has also seen a huge jump in activity in the last ten years from World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV, Diablo III and Ultimata Online, which cater to an older audience; to games aimed now at children such as National Geography’s Animal Jam, Disney’s Club Penguin, Roblox, and more.
Inherently, this also opens up concerns about safety from parents, teachers and good citizens who wonder if their kids should be online at all. But in a world where the internet is available in virtually every household, it is not something they can be sheltered from for long.
So how can we let our kids enjoy online gaming without being afraid a predator is going to snatch them up? Here are some helpful tips:
Read The Rules: Children’s games that involve any social interaction should always have a moderation department as well as information on what they do to help keep your child safe. For instance, are they moderated for using poor language, being a bully or inappropriate behavior? Are they told to not give out personal information? How involved is the game in to safety?
Parent Control Features: Does the game help put control into the hand of the parents? For instance, Animal Jam has what’s called a Parent Dashboard. This allows the parent to take control of chat settings, password resets, and even disabling the account if they don’t want their child to play. Club Penguin has something similar called Parent Tools which also allows for these safety features to be implemented.
Help Them Sign Up: When signing up your child for any online games, make sure to ALWAYS be there to assist them. Yes, this will take a few extra minutes BUT it will also make sure they are putting in your email correctly if needed (for features such as the Parent Dashboard/Tools stated above) and you can also note their username and password to make sure that it is hard to guess. Most accounts get compromised due to easy or predictable passwords!
Stay Involved: Most problems come from parents who are not involved with what their child is doing online. Creating an account alongside your child will give you the player’s eye view on what your child will see, do and who they will interact with.
By staying involved you can see what safety features would be best for your child as well as if the game is right for them or if they may need to wait a few years. Additionally, it’s a great way for you to interact and spend time with your child in a fun environment!
Talk To Your Child: This is the most important. While we can do everything we can as a parent to ensure that they are protected, they also have to make decisions. Games such as Animal Jam and Club Penguin offer in-game tools to report a player to the moderation team and block them from having any interaction. These features help empower your child to take charge in a situation versus feeling powerless. It’s additionally a great talking point to have with your child about what to do when they feel someone is being mean to them or they see someone breaking the rules.
Talk to them about privacy with personal information such as not giving out your password even the person is a “really good buddy” and especially not giving out any information that could lead back to them personally.
While these connections seem superficial, they won’t seem that way to your child. Their “buddy” on the game can quickly seem and feel as close as a friend that they go to school with.
Overall, we have a lot of power to protect our children while still allowing them to learn how to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of the internet and the ever-growing world of online gaming.