Online Video Games: Top 10 Tips to Keep Kids Safe
My kids love the online video game RuneScape, and they've played it for years. Set in a medieval fantasy realm, players can travel through various kingdoms fighting monsters, completing quests and increasing their skills. They make tools, catch fish, watch each other's back and have fun. Engaging, but fairly harmless.
Update: I've learned that even Runescape can lead kids to porn. Sad day.
Online Gaming & Porn
Other Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) are not so innocent. In fact, video gaming and pornography access often go hand in hand.
"Parents need to understand how intricately linked the gaming industry and pornography industry are. More and more games have pornography embedded in them. If kids play online, that is a pornographer's heyday for marketing, grooming and hooking young consumers." Jill Manning, Ph.D. Marriage and Family Therapist, as quoted by Internet Safety 101
Let’s look at a few of the dangers and how your kids can avoid them.
- Predators: Kids can use a headset to talk to players from all over the world or predators from around the block. Child predators have gone hi-tech and they are looking for new victims Every. Single. Day.
“But, since predators prey where kids play, it is no surprise that online games are the new frontier for sexual predators. They use online gaming to connect with children and groom and target their next victim.” Internet Safety 101, Online Gaming Dangers
- Violence: Grand Theft Auto allows players to gun down civilians, and then, when the police respond, players can kill them, too. Does all of this graphic violence and gore have an effect on kids? With new studies in brain science, the answer is increasingly yes!
- Sexual content: Porn is often embedded in video games. According to Internet Safety 101, many games allow “kids to engage in virtual or simulated sex acts to accumulate more points. Some games exist for the sole purpose of simulating sex—virtual sex games are often free and easy to access for kids; these games allow kids to create an online identity to explore sexuality in any place and in any way, including group sex, bestiality, and other fetishes.”
This video from Internet Safety 101 is well worth the watch!
Top 10 Tips to Protect Kids
1. Set up all video game accounts. Determine who your child can talk to and who has access to your child’s gaming profile. Never give a child an Xbox or other game console and allow them to set it up. Parents should set up all controls to limit inappropriate content.
2. Teach your kids to never give away personal information online (name, address, name of school, age, telephone number or email). Safe Internet Surfing advises kids to make sure their online screen names don’t give out information either. For example, they should not use their birth year in their screen name or an abbreviation of their school (WhtBluf2004). Remember, people online can pretend to be who they are not. Be wary of anyone who asks for personal information.
3. Keep computers protected. Play online games only after you have a current and effective antivirus/antispyware firewall running.
4. Don’t download “cheats”—many contain malware and viruses. Only buy software from reputable sources.
5. When disposing of your gaming device, make sure all of your personal information has been deleted.
Violence & Sexual Content
6. Read reviews before purchasing a video game: Common Sense Media Review for Games
7. Understand the rating system. Become familiar with the Entertainment Rating Software Board ratings for video games.
8. Read A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls and Online Safety It's filled with some excellent info, including a letter from a "gaming Dad."
9. Remember, that even if a game is rated “E” for everyone, if it has access to the Internet, your kids can encounter other people who may not be using “E” rated language. What will your kids do if they encounter someone using foul language in an online game? Or worse, see a pop-up for porn? Get them prepared with a plan!
10. Limit time so gaming doesn't become an addiction. Playing is important for kids, but using online games to escape from problems or negative feelings can begin the process of addiction. That's why emotional coaching is so important for kids. (I love these CARE TAGS from The Play Lady!)
Are you exhausted yet? I am!
Parents today must be much more involved and informed in order to keep their kids safe. It may seem daunting, but you CAN DO it because your kids are worth it!