How to Stay Safe on Gaming Sites

Setting ground rules at home is essential, but remember, your kids can play games from a friend’s computer as well as at an Internet café. To help protect your children at home, talk to them about the dangers of online gaming, be ready to listen if they seem upset about something that happened while they were on the computer, and encourage them to use wisdom when deciding what types of online games to play. You can help keep your child’s gaming experiences safe, age-appropriate, friendly, fun, and even educational by educating yourself about the gaming community, game ratings, and how to use the privacy and safety tools built into the games. Check out the safety features and parental controls offered by all the major gaming consoles including Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation 2, 3 and 4.

TIPS

Teach your child to:  

  • Use voice chat wisely
  • Be aware of voice masking technology  - while masking can be a safety feature, predators can use it to pretend to be someone they are not. 
  • Beware of strangers. While there are both safe and dangerous strangers, they are still strangers. We advise that younger gamers, under 15, only play with people they know in person and that are parent-approved.
  • Use suitable screen names (gamertags)  - don't use your actual name   
  •  Be aware of cyberbullies (griefers)
  • Never give out personal information about him/herself or that of another player.
  • Kick out any players that make them feel uncomfortable (ignore/block), and tell a trusted adult.
  • Report abusive or inappropriate behavior in the reporting area of the game.
  • Remember that use of games and other technology is a privilege, not a right.

As a parent:

  • Review games and ratings posted by games and apps (provided by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) before you download or buy games to make sure they are age-appropriate. The Internet is a parent’s best friend for getting up to date information on safety, tools and gaming features.
  • Play the game yourself by spending time alongside your child to learn about the game. Kids love to teach parents and will enjoy the interaction.
  • Build an atmosphere of trust with your child regarding all of his/her online activities. Have regular ongoing conversations with your child about the games they are playing, their gaming experiences (both good and bad), and who they are talking to. Use these opportunities to keep the safety conversation current and ongoing.
  • Use parental controls for games used by your child. (Here's a resource to show you how). Additionally, set and save parental controls provided within the game or gaming app. Remember if you set controls provided by the game itself, you will also need to do the same on the gaming platform used by your child. (Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Windows 10 and iOS). Remember, games can be played on multiple devices (consoles, phones,tablets), so controls need to be set on each device.
  • Keep your parent password private. Believe it or not, some parents have their kid set up parental controls which can defeat the purpose.
  • Here are some basic guidelines for setting parental control tools:
    • Set time limits. Gaming can be addictive, so set boundaries for when and how long your child can play.
    • Filter mature language
    • Determine if your child is mature enough for voice chat, if not, turn it off.  Be aware your child may hear profanity or other unwanted language via voice chats features.
    • Have your child check with you before attempting to enter any credit card information. Consider setting controls to require your parent PIN on purchases and to restrict access to games, including free games in the online store via your PIN.
    • Know who your child is playing with. Limit the players your child can play with to parent-approved players, ie, kids you and your child know. (Note, your child cannot detect a disquised predator. Predators groom many children at a time and are patient with gathering details on the child and accessing their vulnerability for grooming.)
    • Consider limiting access to web browsing, which is unrestricted Internet access and opens up all of the good and bad on the Internet.
    • Consider disallowing the webcam use while gaming - instead, consider use of an avatar, especially for under 14+ gamers.
    • Consider disallowing voice masking technology 
    • Be aware that there are numerous blogs, youtube videos etc that show kids how to disable parental controls.
  • Keep up with new gaming functions introduced by the game as they often change and can put your child at risk. For instance, a new game feature was added to Fortnite Battle Royale allowing users to connect with strangers through both text and voice chat. The NSPCC reported that 1 in 4 youth aged 11-18 have been contacted on Fortnite by someone they don’t know. (2018). Gaming developers like Microsoft and Epic often have features on their websites whereby a parent can received updated changes to gaming functions.
  • Follow Enough Is Enough®’s Rules ‘N Tools for online safety.
  • Talk to your child about coming to you if anyone bullies them, asks them for inappropriate pictures or makes them feel uncomfortable
  •  Keep all software current (security system, operating system) to protect against viruses and spyware.
  • Balance screen time with live play, outdoor time and face to face interactions.
  • Keep a close eye on how the game may be affecting your child in a negative way. Remember, the games can be violent, are often highly addictive. Warning signs of a problem are increasing agitation when play time is restricted, becoming more sedentary and less interested in outdoor play, increased isolation, aggression and depression.  Seek professional help if your child exhibits the last three of these behaviors.

Here are some helpful articles and links specific to popular games:

Apex Legnds (Protect Young Eyes)

Fortnite (Protect Young Eyes)

Fortnite (NSPCC Issues Child Safety Warning on Fortnite)