Increasing numbers of people are playing games online. This includes both those who play in a traditional online casino setting - those casino sign up bonuses are very attractive. But it also includes thos playing in a social milieu and those who play solo. The number of people playing online poker and casino games has tripled over the last six months and just last month, U.S. gaming sales increased 37% over August 2019.
Kids are also playing more games. In some ways, that’s good. Gaming has been shown to enhance memory, improve attention and concentration, boost learning skills, improve social skills, improve coordination, improve problem-solving skills, improve the brain’s speed and enhance multi-tasking skills.
As parents however, you need to be aware of the dangers of online gaming. Playing online can expose young people to incidences of cyberbullying, expose them to inappropriate violence and sexual content, give online predators a chance to contact the youngsters, raise privacy issues, lead to misuse of webcams and other worrisome risks.
So, can you allow your youngster to play online games? And if so, how can you protect him or her from the hazards that are found in the online gaming world?
Kids and Online Gaming
Kids are spending more and more time online these days. For young children, any online access should be limited and strictly monitored but for older kids, parents must figure out how to balance giving their kids the social interaction that online activity offers while keeping them safe from the Internet’s dangers.
Today, so much of modern life takes place online that it’s almost impossible to ban it from kids’ lives. Even schools have now put much of their coursework online for youngsters from kindergarten on up. When a child is first introduced to screen time, the parents’ goals should be clear. Parents should be online WITH their child as much as possible and when not, have proper safeguards that ensure that the child won’t be able to access content that the parent doesn’t want them to see.
Filtering Internet is an old-fashioned way to control what content comes into your house through the airwaves but it’s still as effective as it ever was. You can set your filter to be as weak or as strong as you want so consider your settings carefully. If your kids want to play video games online, you can filter the content to keep out violence and sex. That way, you can give your kids the chance to enjoy all of the advantages of gaming while protecting them from content that you don’t want them to access.
Child protection advocates strongly suggest that you keep YouTube inaccessible, no matter what. The most exploitative and most disturbing issues on YouTube, including YouTube Kids, have been addressed in the past. But issues arise all the time and YouTube only pays attention when there’s a huge media outcry. It’s too easy to navigate from acceptable to unacceptable content on YouTube. A lot of kids want to see streamed content but it’s not worth the future dangers to allow them to get anywhere near those streamed sessions.
You should also keep an eye on any content that your children are viewing on Facebook Gaming and Twitch – if the games themselves, or the comments, seem inappropriate, put those sites on your filtered sites as well.
As mentioned, online gaming has its plusses but it can become an obsessive hobby and can even lead to underage gambling. The socializing that takes place on online gaming sites can lead to older gamers grooming youngsters and then leading them into dangerous territory, both online and in real life.
To manage gaming for your child you need to set firm boundaries. Gaming can allow your socially isolated child to spend time with friends but it has to be monitored so that it doesn’t take over the child’s life.
Find age appropriate games that allow your child to experience the benefits of social gaming but also keep him/her in a safe and welcoming environment that’s appropriate for young users. One suggested game is Roblox. Roblox is challenging and fun, encourages youngsters to be creative and promotes the learning of new skills. At the same time, the company is committed to ensuring that its platform and safety tools promote a secure gaming adventure for all.
Chats have become an increasingly important part of the social gaming world. Chat software Discord is what many gamers use to talk to and message each other during play through voice and video chats. Communities form around Discord chats and these communities are open to anyone. ANYONE. Once you enter a Discord room you can be looking at porn or chatting with a Nazi who is promoting his ideology within minutes. Bad news!
When push comes to shove, there’s nothing more important than keeping your communication lines open with your child. You need to discuss
- How your child plans to use his/her time wisely
- What an appropriate time frame is for gaming sessions and what an appropriate number of gaming sessions is per day
- Planning for times when a gaming session may need to be missed (self-control)
- Planning for what to do if they encounter bullying, hate speech or other types of harassment
- What to do if a chat session becomes too personal (and how to recognize the dangers)
- How to enjoy healthy gaming in a way that it doesn’t displace other activities such as family time, exercise and sleep
Discussions about healthy gaming is not a one-time issue! Bring these subjects up periodically so that it stays in your child’s conscious and tells him/her that you’re staying on top of the activity.
Remember, in your house, you pay for the Internet. Set the filters in a way that seems safe to you and don’t give in, regardless of how much your child begs or assures you that his best friend's parents do otherwise.