Protecting children from predators, scammers, and bullies on gaming platforms
With the rise of online gaming and the popularity of these games among children, parents are faced with a very real issue. Just how to protect your children online?
There was a time when searches on stuff like the perfect way to stay anonymous when gaming online or the best VPN for gaming and such would not have had many hits. That is not the case today – and we don’t have webmasters to thank for that.
Looking deeper, you will find out that these searches are now trending because there is a problem which they are addressing.
As the internet is only going to get bigger, now is the time to tackle the issue of online gaming problems out of the park. Especially if you have children/ wards whose safety you truly care about.
Here, we will give advice on how to protect your children online.
The Rise of Online Gaming
We might not even need the fact sheet to convince you of how gaming has now taken a new face online. It seems like this is the only form of gaming for many people right now.
Turning to the fact sheet, anyways, it is stunning to note that there are some 2.5 billion video gamers from all around the world. Of these, 40% were found to prefer playing their games online rather than via any other mode of gameplay.
These stats have been out since as far back as the year 2016, and the online gaming landscape has just grown bigger in that time. The most interesting fact to us, though, lies with a certain demographic – the kids.
Teens are a heavy market for the gaming industry, and that does not look to be slowing down anytime soon.
As of the time of this writing, it is estimated that 66% of teens between the ages of 8 and 12 play video games for no less than two hours every day. The figures are slightly higher (at 2.5 hours daily) for teens between the ages of 13 and 17.
The above are not the only category of kids playing video games, though. Kids between the ages of 2 – 4 will also indulge in video games for about 21 minutes daily too. With the percentage of them invested in online gaming, this opens them up to things you might not even know about.
So the question remains – how to protect your children online?
The Elephant in the Room
What no one seems to be talking about are the problems which these kids are facing when gaming online.
Worst of all is the fact that some of these might go unreported, thus leaving the kids to deal with issues that they are not capable of alone.
Looking at the broad extremes of problems that have been reported over time, we have curated the top issues that parents should know about.
Google trends show that the searches for cyberbullying have tripled in the past decade alone – so that must be a cause for concern.
Perhaps a bigger cause for concern is the fact that only one in ten teens tell their parents that they have ever been a victim of cyberbullying.
This makes things even more dangerous as the kid could make more mistakes in trying to deal with the situation alone. On the other hand, they could also be left emotionally scarred for life if they are not equipped with the right tools to deal with such a situation.
Unfortunately, the anonymity enjoyed on many online gaming platforms enables these cyberbullies to come out to play with full force.
This can take a series of forms too. It could be a better player always picking on the kids during the games, chatting expletives in the game rooms or even trying to make the kids feel bad via voice chat.
No matter what form it comes in, it doesn’t take away the fact that it could be damaging to anyone it happens to, and it’s of utmost importance that you
protect your children from them.
As the name implies, these are older people who create fake accounts to befriend kids and get them to do their bidding. Speaking of ‘bidding,’ this involves nefarious acts from getting sensitive information (home address, school details, real names, etc.) to becoming uncomfortably personal with the kids – to the extent of soliciting explicit pictures.
Kids being kids, there is a chance they make a mistake and give in. The problem here is that the online predator will usually use what they have as a hold over the kid to prevent them from ever reporting to the parents.
Some gaming consoles have webcams for different purposes. If you have been following some of the latest security breaches and hacks, you will be familiar with the fact that these webcams can usually be compromised.
So serious is this issue that someone like Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook – was photographed having tape over his computer’s webcam.
The webcam could easily be manipulated by the use of malware (or other attempts) to spy on your kids without their knowing.
Following from the above point, that could also be a way to get explicit images and sensitive information which would then be lorded over these kids to keep them under the thumb of their bully/ predator.
If there is one thing online gaming needs to work, besides the console/ platform itself, that has to be the internet. What your kids might not know is that not all internet networks are worth connecting to.
There is a lot of documentation about the dangers of insecure connections, especially public/ free Wi-Fi networks. On such, hackers and unauthorized individuals come out to play and there is no telling what kind of data they might end up getting away with.
From man-in-the-middle attacks, internet data sniffing and conversation hijacking to the dangers of connecting to a rogue network in the first place, the dangers of using a public Wi-Fi network/ unencrypted gaming connection far outweigh any benefits it might hold for the cause.
Let’s not even get started on a variety of scams that could happen in the online gaming world. Again, kids being as innocent and unassuming as they come, it is little wonder why they are usually the targets of most of these predators.
The most common scams in this category involve tricking the child into giving up the username and password to their gaming account. In some cases, all the hacker wants is access to the gaming account. In the worst-case scenario, they might also be fishing for personal information and sensitive details (think of linked credit card accounts).
On platforms where stuff can be traded (such as Steam), some of these scammers will come with the promise of gifting the player certain items from their inventory, only if they could get cash. The possibilities are endless, but they are all as ugly as they come too.
Combating the Problems
These will only be problems for as long as we allow them to stay that way. As a parent, you might not know much about online gaming, but that does not mean your kids have to face all they encounter alone.
With a set of simple steps as detailed below, you can get into their world and help them to make the best choices. These steps show you how to protect your children online.
Create a Safe Space
Perhaps, the reason why most kids would not let their parents know when anything is wrong is that they fear the out lash that they will get from the said parents too. That does not have to be an issue when you have made your kids know that they can approach you with anything.
Thus, they can be confident enough to come to you when they are being bullied online. It would also be easier for them to open up to you if any online predator is trying to show controlling behaviour on them.
Finally, part of creating a safe space is telling your kids things that they can experience while playing their online games. Thus, when it happens, it is easier for them to come forward with such a piece of information.
Play the Games
We know you don’t have the time – in between your busy day at work and having to rest at home – but it wouldn’t hurt to block off some hours weekly just to play the video games that your kids are interested in with them. More than anything they can tell you; this also gives you a view of what they can be exposed to, besides allowing you to understand the game on a much deeper level.
Invest in Online Security
Following the first point under this subheading, your kids should be taught about staying safe online.
Under this discussion, you should talk to them about what they can share online and what they should never let slip. They should also be trained to spot predatory behavior from miles away.
Furthermore, we go to the hardware and software section. Until they are old enough to know right from wrong, do not allow your kids unfettered
access to your credit card details for their online gaming spends. If possible, un-link the card after each use – if they must use it at all.
Finally, ensure they are always gaming on secure networks. Since they will be spending a lot of time on the gaming platform anyways, they better be on a secure channel for all that time.
A great way to make this happen is by investing in a quality VPN which will encrypt the network connection they are accessing their online game servers with.
The best VPN for gaming will also be one that will help keep your kids anonymous on the internet – right down to their IP address and internet data streams. Seeing as they are easy to use too (most VPNs are now operated with a single click), your kid won’t have any problem with setting up their security protocol.
Trusting your kids is one thing, supervising them without it feeling like you are always in their business, so to speak, is another. However, you will have to find a balance between the two.
Simply handing your kid the console/ gaming platform and expecting that they will make the best choice on their own is not enough. You have to recognize that they will want to explore – as they should be.
It is, thus, your job to review the games that they are playing to ensure it falls within the confines of their age and the kind of content they are allowed to consume at that age too.
Of course, this is not a substitute for any of the above tips. Know that online predators, among others, will infiltrate just about any gaming service that they know they can get kids on.
It would look downright cruel to deny the kids their playtime, but the dangers it brings with it sometimes suggests that this could be the best line of action. The good news is that you can taste from both sides of the pond now: allowing your kids to play their games and have that fun time while you are also sure that they are safe online.
With an atmosphere of trust, a dash of openness and a supply of tools that they need to deal with the issues in the online gaming world, you will be building your kids for the world that they are going to meet out there too.
Two for the price of one, don’t you think?
If you have also had to make certain moves to ensure the safety and security of your kids when gaming online, you are welcome to share with us in the comments.
Full credit: Techwarn.com