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Kids Online Safety: The Gaming Edition

While adults might remember a time before the internet, a connected world is all today’s kids have ever known. However, growing up in an age dominated by screens and digital content doesn’t mean that children inherently understand the potential risks and dangers of the internet. Just as adults are responsible for protecting children in the real world, it is equally as important that parents, guardians, and educators take an active role in promoting cyber safety for kids.

Cyber Security for Kids

Doing so has been tricky in the past year, as lockdowns have meant kids are spending more and more time in front of a screen. Not only has the classroom become virtual, but online gaming has boomed in popularity as kids try to find new ways to stay connected with friends.

Online gaming can expose both kids and adults to many risks including cyberbullying, online abuse, identity theft, and scams. Kids often aren’t aware of the dangers posed by online gaming platforms — they just want to buy cool new weapons and armour, level up their characters, and defeat friends and foes in battle.

If your child spends hours battling it out in front of the screen, make sure they are aware of basic safe gaming practises through the following tips. 

1. Encourage open conversations 

In order to protect themselves, kids need to fully understand the dangers of the online world. Have open conversations with your children about the kinds of risks they can expect to encounter when playing games online. Introduce them to the concepts of phishing, scamming, and cyberbullying, and teach them to spot the classic warning signs of illegal and abusive behaviour.

2. Check in on your kids

While it’s important to give your kids some independence, young children should not be able to roam free on the internet. Make sure you are aware of the types of games that your kids are playing online. Ask them to show you their favourite apps and platforms and consider taking the time to play alongside them. 

3. Create strong passwords

An adult should always be the one to set up a child’s gaming account. A new account typically requires you to provide a name, date of birth, location, and sometimes credit card details. All this information is private and needs to be protected by a strong password. Teach your kids how to create secure passwords and make sure they understand the importance of never using the same password for multiple accounts.

4. Limit screen time

Between remote learning, Netflix, TikTok, and online games, kids are spending more time in front of the screen than ever before. Consider setting time limits on your kids’ digital activities. Better yet, talk to them about the importance of having a good balance between inside and outside hobbies. It is far better that kids proactively make the decision to spend some time in the fresh air than have their parents force them to turn off their devices.

5. Avoid using free wifi

Some popular games, such as Minecraft, can be played on a mobile device. When out and about, kids are often keen to play their games but don’t have available data, so they turn to free wi-fi.  

Free wi-fi, often found in shopping centers and coffee shops, is fraught with all types of security risks and should be avoided at all costs. Cybercriminals have been known to use these unsecure connections to steal personal information and commit identity theft. Ensure that your kids understand the risks of open connections and only play online games using their secure, home wi-fi connection.

6. Don’t share personal information 

Online gaming is a social activity, which is what many kids enjoy most about it. Unfortunately, the social capabilities of gaming platforms open up all sorts of risks to children, who can’t always tell the difference between a friend and a stranger.

Make sure your children fully understand the risks of sharing personal information — including their real name, age, date of birth, and location — with people they are playing with online. Kids identity theft is a real and growing concern, and can have long-lasting repercussions. 

7. Only connect with friends

One of the best ways that kids can stay safe online is by only connecting and playing with their friends. Monitor the types of games your kids are playing, be aware of which ones have multiplayer capabilities (World of Warcraft, Fortnite, and League of Legends are among the most popular) and be sure your kids are only battling it out against real-world friends.

There are many benefits to playing games online. Beyond providing your kids with the chance to relax and socialize with their friends, gaming can also teach critical thinking, hand-eye coordination, and problem solving skills. So that your children can play and learn in a safe gaming environment, teach them the strategies they need to make smart, safe, and informed decisions.  

Author Bio: 

Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.

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