Little boy playing with tablet, sitting on sofa in dark room at night.

Making Video Gaming Safe For Your Kids

The fact of the matter is, most parents don’t mind when their kids start playing video games.

It’s an instant babysitter, and can distract children for hours on end. It accidently teaches children how to maneuver through video displays, increases manual dexterity, and has been proven to encourage mental acuity.

But, any benefit that exists when a child sits down to play a video game is quickly erased from thought when parents become aware of the dangers of video gaming when it reaches the connection stage.

Eventually, and painfully early on, a child playing video games will want to play their video games with friends, not by inviting them over and sharing their extra controller, but by connecting via the internet, playing blocks or miles apart from one another.

And then comes the day when a parent asks their child “who are you playing with,’’ and the child says “some guy”.

No parent wants to be the one that denies their child the rite of passage into the world of connected video game play. But no parent wants their child playing video games on the internet with “some guy”.

The threats posed to children on the internet are too numerous to mention, not to mention too horrendous to mention. However, other than denying a child the opportunity to connect with their friends through a gaming console, or sitting behind them watching every encounter they have while gaming, there is only so much a parent can do to protect their children from the dangers that lurk in a wireless world of communication.

Which is not to say parents must resign themselves to finding out their child has “met’’ someone online who wants to meet in person.

Let’s look at some safety measures parents can take which do not require dampening the child’s gaming experience:

Steps for Safe Video Gaming

Your role in providing safe conditions for your child playing video games begins before the first game is played. All consoles carry privacy settings. (In a way, they duplicate the cabinet locks you put all over your kitchen when the child was very little). Depending on how much you want your child to know, you can set the privacy levels as strictly as you want without letting your child know what you are preventing. 

Privacy settings are not designed to make the game less fun for the child; they are designed to make the game less fun for an unnamed predator. If you are well past the first monitor stage, tell your child that you want to recheck the privacy settings and let them know exactly why you want to do that.

Make sure your child’s user name reveals nothing about who they are. Let them be imaginative in making up a name that does not include initials or nicknames or location in any way.

Speak to your wi-fi provider about increasing the safety measures attached to your account. Yes, you have a password, but how many people have you given access to when they come over and want to show you something on their phone? 

Make this point crystal clear: Any purchase or download made via the monitor must be conducted in your presence. You are probably paying for it; you have every right to know what you have purchased. And, thanks to the internet, you can research any game or platform your child is interested in quickly to determine the amount of risk involved in allowing the purchase.

Talk to your kids. Based upon the age and “street wisdom’’ of your child, explain to them what to watch out for when they play video games. It’s identical to telling them to never talk to anyone who drives up to them in a white van with painted windows. And don’t be cowed by your teenagers. They may not want to hear it or talk about it, claiming to know what to avoid and how to protect themselves, but they very likely don’t. Not really. Let them be irritated; help them keep safe.

Educate yourself. You may know dangers exist for children in video gaming, but you don’t know how predators gain access or entice children or teenagers. Find out. The internet has numerous perfectly credible sources which provide information on video game safety. Talk to one of your friends who has older kids; they likely know from their own experience. 

Be part of a safe community

Talk to the parents of your children’s friends. Let them know your concerns about your child’s safety when playing video games online, and listen to what the other parents are doing to protect their children.

From the beginning days of civilization, people understood the safety of numbers and knowledge. That concept still exists today. Create a community of caring parents, who allow their children to play video games but do so in a safe environment.

Once that is taken care of, you can worry about your child’s video game obsession.

An entirely different topic…

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