Guard the Home Pt. 5 - Online Gaming
There is a new playground for kids, and it doesn’t include the misleading, nausea inducing, “merry-go-round" we grew up with. The playground of the 21st century has moved online in the form of online gaming. The move brings new safety risks to kids. To be fair, there were plenty of safety risks on "old school” playgrounds too. “Is that lead paint?” “Is your Tetanus shot up to date?” “If it’s a hot day, avoid the metal slide.” “Don’t read what is written on the equipment. Don’t eat the gum stuck to it and don’t talk to strangers.”
Here are some of the biggest safety concerns with online gaming to be aware of:
Addiction: Gaming can be a lot of fun, but kids don’t know how to set healthy boundaries. Too much gaming can be detrimental to both children and adults. Set time limits and keep gaming machines in high traffic areas of your home.
Malware/Viruses/Identity theft: Online games require downloading data. Parents should make sure downloads are from a legitimate source and keep up to date antivirus software. Also, talk to your kids about not sharing/posting personal information or passwords with anyone online.
Cyberbullying/Harassment/Predators/Foul language: A lot of online games include online social interaction through chat bars, direct messages, and voice. They can be platforms for cyberbullying, harassment, and expose kids to abusive, explicit, language. Some games include options to turn off online interactions. Be sure to check parental controls and social settings on devices and games. Edit them to approve/limit social interactions online. Another tip is voice chat with speakers rather than headphones. You’ll be able to hear what they are hearing in the game.
Finances: A lot of online games/apps include a digital marketplace that can be tied to your credit/debit card. You’ll want to make sure this is turned off or needs parental approval. Otherwise, you might end up with a large bill and a collection of useless Fortnite dances.
Adult Content: Games come with age ratings similar to movies. Be sure to check the rating of the game and read reviews about it online. Here’s a great site for game reviews: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews
The good news is that these challenges are not impossible to overcome and working through them creates opportunities for real time teaching. Explain your concerns and why you’re taking necessary action for their safety. Including them in the process will help kids make better and more informed decisions themselves! Plus, gaming together can be a fun bonding experience. I have plenty of fond memories from childhood playing video games with my dad! From arcade machines at Pizza Hut, hours of pinball, to playing Nintendo in our living room, it was a blast! We can still have fun today, even online. Minecraft isn’t pinball but my kids aren’t into pinball. It’s not for a lack of trying on my part! They enjoy playing in the big open world “sandbox” of Minecraft and love it when I jump online with them. I’m always impressed with their creativity, and they’re always excited to show off their latest creations. Online gaming isn’t all bad, but to keep it from turning bad, parents have to stay involved. Be responsible, read up, and get ready for your thumbs to get a good workout!
1 Corinthians 10:23 “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’- but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’- but not everything is beneficial.”
Check out our other posts in our Guard the Home series!