All parents know that kids love gaming. You only need to look at the recent popularity of Fortnite to see that it can easily take over their lives. However, with this widespread love for online gaming comes dangers that many parents may not be aware of, or are unequipped to deal with.
According to new findings from McAfee, there is a significant gap in understanding from Aussie parents around the potential dangers that online gaming poses to their children. More than a third of Aussie parents allow their children to play online games recommended for older children. And this is despite the fact that 65% of parents at least somewhat agree that their child is at risk of being exposed to inappropriate content while gaming.
What’s more concerning is the lack of education around cybersecurity for both parents and children. While many of us are doing our best to get our heads around the challenges and threats of the digital world, being a first generation digital parent is a tough gig. Many of us are flying blind with no help or advice from previous generations.
What are the dangers of online gaming?
It is crucial for parents across Australia to familiarise themselves with the potential dangers of online gaming so they can work with their kids to both prepare for them and navigate around them. According to McAfee’s research, some of the potential risks around online gaming that are top of mind for Aussie parents include:
- Online grooming: 65% of parents believe their kids are at risk of grooming when playing online games
- Cyberbullying: 68% of parents are concerned about their kids being cyberbullied through online games
- Scams: 58% worry their children will become the victim of an online gaming related cyber-scam
- Exposure to violence: 72% of parents worry their children will be exposed to violence when playing online games
- Finance: 36% of parents have noted that their children have accidentally bought something on a video game, potentially leading to significant financial loss
With these concerns and dangers, a genuine and scary reality for many parents, here are my top tips to ensure your kids are gaming as safely as possible.
Top tips to keep your kids safe when online gaming
- Talk about it
Think of it as the digital version of the ‘stranger danger’ conversation. The earlier you can start a conversation about the dangers of gaming with your children, the better. It can be as simple as implementing rules like: “don’t open messages from people you don’t know” and “decline friend requests from strangers”. It will be beneficial for both you and your children to make online safety a part of everyday conversation and behaviour.
- Make it official
Sit down with your kids and create a digital contract. This way you have a mutually agreed upon set of guidelines around screen time and safe behaviours when gaming online.
- Think before you click
Our generation of children have been using digital devices since before they could walk and talk. This desensitises them to the risks online gaming can pose. Cybercriminals can exploit the popularity of gaming to encourage kids to click on dangerous links. Make sure your kids are paying attention to what they are clicking on and checking to see if it is from a trustworthy source.
- Keep on top of it
Use parental control software to set time limits on your child’s device usage. You’ll be reducing their exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites and, at the same time, leaving more time for homework. It’s a win-win solution!
- Protect your family & your devices
It’s important to make the right investment in security protection to ensure your family is completely protected online. Accidents do happen and it can be very easy for children to accidentally click on something malicious. McAfee’s Total Protection helps to keep all connected devices safe and to avoid dangerous websites and links when searching online for gaming tips or new games to download.
- Update your software
Don’t keep hitting snooze on those software update reminders. Always make sure you take the time to keep your security software up-to-date so your devices aren’t an easy target for hackers.
- Breathe easy, gaming isn’t all bad
With the right management, gaming can provide kids with unexpected benefits and skills. Studies show gaming can help manage:
- Anxiety and depression
- Reduce pain
- Improve memory and resilience of players
And, you could even be preparing your child for a career in cybersecurity. A report by McAfee, Winning The Game, identified that gamers have a skill set that may help fill the current and future demand for cybersecurity experts.
Finally, please remember – everything in moderation. Banning your kids from online gaming is not the way to manage this issue although it is tempting! Implementing just a few simple steps to manage your child’s online safety will have a big impact of securing their safety while they game online. So, please make this a priority.
Are you concerned about your child’s gaming habits? Tell us in the comments below.