Today the online gaming sector is a major segment of the games industry. An Entertainment Software Association report estimates that in families where children are playing video games, at least 70% of those families have at least one child who plays online including on desktops, laptops, gaming consoles, mobile devices.
By law, minors aren’t allowed to play Grande Vegas online casino USA games but even non-casino online gaming, even with games that are deemed to be child-friendly, carries risks. Young gamers can be subjected to cyber bullying, requests for payments and enticements to make purchases and exposure to online predators. Parents are trying to navigate a new world in their quests to keep their children safe.
Having a conversation with your child about safe online behavior is the most important thing that a parent can do to keep a child safe – creating an atmosphere for open dialogue is essential in minimizing the risks to youngsters in the gaming world. Some other things that you need to be aware of in order to keep your child safe in the online gaming world include:
The issue of predators on social media is well-known but people are less aware of the presence of how people pursue young gamers. Typically, predators who troll gaming sites looking for vulnerable youngsters are older gamers who lure and groom young victims by contacting them within the gaming community. Messages between the predator and the young player can become inappropriate and lead to sexual exploitation.
Predators use the gaming space to build a rapport with the younger players through their shared experience. They often groom the young player by “proving” themselves as the child’s defender, ally and teammate. They often form bonds with their victims after exploring a new level of a game or defeating an opponent together.
The common experiences give the predators leverage to lead the youngster into more personal territory by demonstrating that they understand the young player and convincing the minor that s/he should detach from his/her family and friends in order to strengthen their bond.
To combat online predators, parents must monitor the gameplay and the interactions that the child has with other players and speak frankly with the child about who these predators are, how they operate and how to stay safe when gaming online.
Webcams are the perfect hacking tool. Many of today’s webcams are embedded into devices which makes it easy for them to be used as a recording device for audio or visual material. Webcams can be controlled remotely and attackers can use the material that they record to exploit victims, including children. Your child’s device should have cyber security software that provides scheduled and real-time system scans for malware.
Also, remember if the webcam isn’t set on “off” it can be turned on remotely and a hacker or predator can watch the user even if the user doesn’t realize that the camera is on. Have the default setting on the webcam set on “off” and use camera covers or even a piece of duct tape to cover the camera when it’s supposed to be turned off.
Young players should be taught to create original usernames – never usernames that are similar to their real names – for privacy purposes. They should never share any personal information with anyone online (age, location, etc). Many of the issues involving social media are also applicable to online gaming which is very much an activity that has a social nature.
Cyber criminals are experts at identifying vulnerable users and manipulating the conversation in a way that allows them to collect personal information. These people proceed to piece together the data that they collect, add information that they collect through other online sources and establish new accounts or even digital identities in the child’s name.
Teach your child to vary usernames and passwords across different games, accounts and platforms.
In addition, the PCs and consoles present online gaming danger. The hard drive of many of these devices contains a lot of personal information. It’s not uncommon for people to pass old devices on to others through stores for used items, swaps, garage sales or even to take them to recycling centers. If you don’t delete your profiles and information you could be putting your private data and financial information at risk.
Before you get rid of any PC, game console, smartphone or tablet, wipe all personal data off the device and then do a factory reset. Have an expert check to see if the device has any storage areas that aren't affected by reset or erase functions. Your safest bet is to use a program that completely removes data.
Cyber bullying is, unfortunately, a fact of life on almost every online social platform including on gaming platforms. Many kids look at online gaming as providing them with the ability to escape into an online world free of the school, social and family pressures of real life. Online, they can be anonymous – until they aren’t.
Cyber bullies on gaming sites have multiple methods of making the lives of their victims miserable from “chaining” groups of high-level challenges so that low-level players “die” to “kill stealing” which involves conquering or capturing needed quest targets which prevents other players from accessing them.
Gamer cyber bullies have been given the label “griefers” and their cyber bullying has countless forms but most victims are victimized by griefers who “whisper” hurtful and harmful comments to and about them. Young players should understand that they have the option to "block" messages and chats whenever they want.
A bully's words or actions may even be a violation of the game's terms of service so someone who is being targeted by a “griefer” should take a screenshot of any offensive conversation to be reported to game administrators. Young players should know that they have their parent’s support in all cases and can always discuss what’s happening with parents.
Many games are “free” but they make their money by charging for in-game purchases, full-game features and extra functions. The “freemium” model reels the player into the gameplay and then manipulates the player into paying for subscriptions, virtual currencies, expanded functionality, special abilities, weaponry, other accessories, etc. Collecting on these extras is made easier by the stipulation that, in order to play for “free” the player must attach a credit card to their gaming profile. When the user purchases new services or items, the card is charged.
Minors aren’t allowed to possess credit cards so the solution is simply to refuse to give your credit card number to your child. For Apple or Google Play games or for traditional subscription-based games, you can simply activate the purchase password feature. Switch off "in-app updates," so that your child can’t amass charges for in-app purchases – this can occur even without the child realizing it. In any case, check your credit card bills regularly to ensure that you’re not being charged for unapproved purchases.
Try gaming with your child to promote open communication and share experiences. Your child will be more likely to listen to you if s/he feels that you’re involved together.