Our Online Gaming Security article is one of our most popular blog posts, but a lot has changed with gaming safety since we released it in 2017.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 2018 was a record-breaking year for the computer and video game industry, with total video game sales exceeding $43.4 billion. Over 75% of Americans have at least one gamer in their household, and 90% of parents are staying on top of things by paying attention to the games their children play.
One of the things we love about technology is how easy it makes it to stay connected. In the case of online gaming, however, this might mean that your kids are interacting with any number of strangers when they sign on to play, so monitoring their activity is more important than it ever has been before.
Take Precautions Before Granting Access to a New Game
- Start out by establishing ground rules as your kids show an interest in gaming. Make sure the “gaming area” of your house is somewhere like the family room, where you’ll be able to keep a close eye on your child’s habits.
- Before your kids head off and start gaming on their own, take the appropriate measures to ensure the devices they’ll be using are up to date on security software and that parental controls are turned on to restrict access to inappropriate content.
- Do your research on the games they’re asking for. Just as you wouldn’t set your kids up with an R-rated movie, you want to be mindful of the games they’re playing. ESRB ratings function in a similar way to movie ratings, making it easy for parents to grant access to age-appropriate games.
Talk to Your Kids About their Gaming Habits
- From the start, keep your child educated about gaming safety. Make sure their screen names aren’t too revealing and that they know that sharing personal information or clicking on links from strangers is never a good idea.
- Join your child in the game they’re playing. You’ll be more aware of any inappropriate content they might be encountering in the game itself, and you’ll also be able to monitor their interactions with other players. Getting involved can make it easier for them to come to you if a problem does arise.
- Make sure appropriate behavior extends to the game. It can be easy to forget that on the other side of the screen is another live person, not just a computer. Bullying and name-calling can be prevalent in the gaming world, and in addition to ensuring your child isn’t on the receiving end of it, you want to be sure they’re not caught up in the game and acting cruelly toward other players.
Set Clear Limits on When it’s Time to Disconnect
- Gaming safety precautions go beyond just being aware of what your child might be exposed to while gaming. Binging a new game can be all too tempting, so it’s important to limit access to gaming throughout the day.
- Designate a certain amount of time or a specific time frame during the day that gaming is allowed, and stick to these parameters. Limiting screen time is healthy for your child, and without restrictions, gaming can cut into time spent on responsibilities like homework or chores, or even make a dent in offline time spent with friends.