Spending time gaming clearly is a passion with today’s youth. You, yourself, may have been a fan of video games when you were a kid (and maybe you still are!). But the video games you played then were different, weren’t they? It was you against the game’s world, trying to outsmart the imaginary villain and get to the next level.

Your kids instead are playing on the internet, via online versions of games where they are pitted against other players who are avatars created by real people, people who could be a friend from school but could also be a stranger living on another continent or in the same town.

Though you may have intended to never let your child play with a stranger, the very nature of multi-player games where 100 players could be in a single game, makes it nearly impossible to enforce that rule if you permit your child to game. And once you open the path to online gaming to your child, their passion for it may seem unstoppable. So, now the question is no longer, should I let my child game with strangers, the relevant question all digital parents need to have answers for is: How do I ensure my child is gaming safely with strangers?

Set Strong & Unique Passwords:

Everyone—even kids—needs to assign strong passwords—long, unpredictable passwords that contain numbers and symbols, and use unique passwords for every website, app and gaming or social platform used. With kids, the trick is to have passwords that are easy to remember. Parents you may need to help your kids with passwords strategies. It’s as simple as combining uppercase letters, lowercase letters and some numbers (your favorite food, animal or character with a few uppercase letters and a date of birth and you’ve got a strong password). You may also want to consider using a password manager.

Use Virus Protection:

It’s time to put aside myths that macs don’t get viruses, that mobile is always safe or that viruses only happen on weird web pages or unusual software. Viruses are lurking EVERYWHERE. And you kid is curious and will follow an internet trail with abandon—even to weird web pages and via unusual software. Get virus protection and make sure you regularly update with the latest version, which often times protects your from hackers latest exploits. Do this and you child won’t be taking unnecessary risks when playing, their identity and all their data will be safe. Need an AV program, we can help.

Gaming-Related Purchases:

If your child is a fan of a particular game, they will be exposed to an onslaught of gaming-themed merchandise as they immerse themselves into gaming worlds, think commercials on YouTube gaming channels or advertisements directly from gamers that your child follows. From here, your child will explore websites where purchases can be made. Be careful—not all of these sites are secure. Shop with caution! Every family should have well-articulated rules about in-game and online purchases.

Keep Your Private Information Just That—Private!:

Teach your child to always be skeptical when a website asks for any personal information. Make sure that they understand what phishing is, a common tactic by cyber criminals where they imitate a familiar looking website or use low prices on popular items or offer a gaming-related prize to lure in potential victims and steal personal data. If a site is asking for a security code, date of birth or uncommon details beyond the usual username and password, don’t trust that web page. Kids who fall victim to fake gaming sites can lose content in the game or even the entire account. To be safe, make sure your child gets an adult’s help before entering any private information.

Define Appropriate Social Interaction With Gaming Strangers:

Many of the online games are designed for group playing environments have built-in voice/chat functions, from typing messages that can be seen by all players, to sending private messages to just one player and broadcasting audio and video of the players via headset as they game. Depending on the game, all, some or none of these functionalities can be disabled. As digital parent you need to be sure that you fully understand the social interaction on every internet-enabled device and game that your child plays with and make rules that work for you and your child. Your younger child should implicitly understand that they should never accept an invitation to communicate with another gamer they do not know on a different platform. Older kids may get invitations from gamer friends to play on other gaming platforms, like from a PC game to Xbox or Discord. As a digital parent, you need to understand the way your child games and make decisions about what is safe for your child.

Beyond all of these cautionary steps, digital parents need to be having very direct conversations with your child about what he or she may hear, see or experience in the gaming world and let them know when they need to be sure to alert you for help—especially if someone asks him or her for any personal information or meet up in real life.

Want to learn more about keeping your child safe when playing games online? Sign up for Savvy Cyber Kid’s free resources and read the Digital Parent’s Guide To Gaming.

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