As technology grows more and more ubiquitous, so do its various applications—including video games. Long gone are the days of plugging red, white, and yellow wires into the back of a giant television, blowing on cartridges, and gaming in stunning 8-bit color. Now, everything we need is right in our hands.
Video games are almost always within reach, from our kids’ pockets, to their backpacks, and even into their classrooms. While most kids will grow up enjoying games appropriately and with no real consequences, there are some dangers to be aware of. Follow this easy checklist to be sure that you are keeping your young gamer safe.
#1. Learn the Game Yourself
As a parent, it can be difficult to take an authoritative stance on something that you aren’t familiar with. Nowhere is this problem more obvious than in the deep generational divide between millennials, who have grown up with rapidly-evolving tech, and their parents, who may just be getting used to email, Facebook and their new laptop.
As with most topics in parenthood, the first step is to get informed. The Internet is a great place to find everything you need to know about your child’s video gaming on their smartphone, tablet, computer, and more.
For example, Minecraft is one of the most popular video games out there and you can learn more about it with this parent’s “crash course” to Minecraft. If you know what games your kid loves, search for similar parents’ guides.
Check out these ones too if your kids are fans of the games:
#2. Talk About Cybersecurity
It’s important to be honest with kids about the cybersecurity threats that exist online. Many young gamers see the Internet “through rose-colored glasses,” and remain blissfully unaware of potentially dangerous realities like identity theft, viruses, and phishing.
The Department of Homeland Security has created the “Stop. Think. Connect.” educational initiative to make sure that parents and kids are aware of cybersecurity; you can find a variety of resources, including points for conversation, on their website.
#3. Tinker With the Security Settings
Get to know both the hardware and software your kids are using to play their video games; they likely use a variety of devices—therefore different types of software. Privacy settings and Internet capabilities are two important things that are device-specific; one size does not fit all.
Start with your child’s mobile phone, or yours if they don’t have their own, since there are important differences between devices using iOS and Android. Official guides to iOS security and Android security can be found online; your child’s specific phone model and carrier should also have their own guides available. Both guides are written for those who are more tech-savvy, so be sure to check out this one from Connect Safely as well.
A few quick and simple tips include:
- Turn off geo-location if possible; kids may use this to tag themselves in games, which could be dangerous.
- Turn off any auto in-app purchasing features. You may have to go into the app to do this.
- Turn off auto Wi-Fi. This opens mobile devices to hackers who get in through the public network.
#4. Invest in App-Blocking Tools
While both iOS and Android device offer parental controls straight from a device’s operating system, new third-party tools for cybersecurity allow you to have more control over the security settings. With Pokemon Go’s 700K daily downloads, for example, parents everywhere are wondering how they can stop Pokemon Go or better control their child’s use of this game.
Products like Familoop Safeguard make this possible with comprehensive parental control options across myriad devices. By offering parents control over gaming, social media, location settings, and more, products like Familoop not only make it possible to block Pokemon Go, but to block nearly any smartphone feature.
#5. Limit “Screen Time”
Most of these tips have addressed concerns over cybersecurity, but that’s not the only risk that video gaming brings. You’re probably aware of the growing concerns being raised over kids having too much “screen time.” Many believe, and a growing body of research suggests, that too much time on electronic devices has a negative impact on children’s physical health, social growth, and more.
Thankfully, there are ways you can limit this “screen time” without invoking (too many) tantrums from frustrated gamers. Establish a routine early on, and stick to it. The Internet, again, is a great resource for ideas about how to put a screen time plan into action. Even reputable institutions like the Mayo Clinic are offering suggestions to effectively manage screen time. Here are a few quick ideas:
- Create a screen-free bedroom
- Limit screen time to a certain number of hours daily
- Provide alternatives
- Prohibit screen time during meals, in the morning before school, etc.
Use these ideas to get a better handle on your child’s video game use. There’s a way to balance their desire to play and your need to control what they’re doing online and once you find it, you’ll both be happy.
For more great Internet Safety Tips, including other ideas on handling on your child’s video game and Internet use, check out our blog.