By Jenna Greenspoon.
Video games have become a hugely popular hobby for tweens and teens everywhere. It’s no surprise that when covid locked us in our homes, kids sought refuge in the social connection available to them through video games. While there are many benefits of gaming online, there are also dangers, just like any other hobby your child may enjoy. According to research, 71% of American kids under the age of 18 play video games.
Educational Benefits of Gaming
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of playing video games. There are educational benefits, health benefits and social benefits. While you may think your child is spending time eating a bag of chips lying on the couch all evening, in reality, they are flexing their mental muscles while they play video games. Many of the games kids play online require a heavy amount of problem solving. They are working as a team in games like Valorant and Minecraft while also using math skills. Gamers need to be able to multitask while they play, especially when they are communicating with others during the game. Many of the games that have in-game currency, whether it be a real currency purchased with money such as V-Bucks or earned currency in games such as Adopt Me, require kids to learn the value of money and how to spend responsibly.
Social Benefits of Gaming
First and foremost, children develop a sense of confidence while playing video games. When they play, they have full control over what they do and when they do it. They don’t have to ask for permission to make each move in the game which gives them some ownership over something. Another huge benefit of gaming is the social aspect. While the only way to socialize with your friends from inside your house used to be a three-way call, now kids can socialize with small and large groups of friends or other people with same interests with them through the game itself or on apps like Discord. During a time when isolation was what most were feeling, kids had a leg up on adults as they engaged in a positive hobby while connecting with their peers.
Risks of Gaming
While there are many benefits of gaming, there are also many downfalls. The threat of sextortion has been covered on Savvy Cyber Kids, which is one of the risks children face online when communicating with others. According to Unicef, 80% of children in 25 countries feel in danger of sexual abuse of exploitation online. In addition to the threat of sexual crimes that take place online, many children experience cyberbullying. The month of October marks Cyberbullying Prevention Awareness month which makes it a great time to educate yourself on what cyberbullying looks like, how to support a child who has been cyberbullied and how to protect your child online. Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have accessed, share or received images of a sexual nature or experience any form of cyberbullying are 50% more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying includes being threatened by someone, being harassed online, experiencing hate speech or hurtful comments and more. Children may also be at risk of a privacy violation by sharing too much information with others.
Children have access to the internet and online communication at an age where they are not mature enough to understand the impact of their actions. Sharing too much information with the wrong person or in the wrong place can result in a serious privacy violation. There are many risks associated with online gaming, but just like anything else, it is the parents job to do their best to educate their child while also putting safety measures in place to catch them if they fall.
Ways to safe safe online
- Education is key: Engage in frequequent and open communication with your child about online safety as well as the possible risks lurking on the internet. Your child may be responsible, but even the most responsible individual can be fooled online.
- Remind your child that the internet is an anonymous space which means you can’t always trust what you are told: Ensure that your child understands that the person on the other side of the screen is hiding behind their computer screen and therefore may engage in inappropriate behavior. The anonymity enables people to behave badly or dangerously with others. The best thing they can do is stay aware and be truthful with you.
- Help your child set up their account safely: They shouldn’t use any private or personal information in their public profile. Make sure your child’s username does not include anything that discloses who they are. Use parental controls on their accounts to limit communication etc. if that if what you feel is best for your child.
- Stop the spread: If your child is part of a cyberbullying situation, remind them to tell you immediately. If they see something happen, encourage them to stop the spread and to stand up for themselves and others.
- Use a monitoring software to catch them when they fall: There are many softwares that you can use to help support you on your digital parenting journey. As they say, it takes a village and we all need support along the way. When it comes to gaming, try a software like ProtectMe that will monitor your child’s in-game communication while maintaining their privacy. ProtectMe sends you alerts when your child comes in contact with an online threat so that you can deal with it appropriately. Try ProtectMe for free for 30 days.
- Have you ever been cyberbullied or witnessed cyberbullying online? What did you do?
- Do you talk to strangers online? Have you ever shared any personal information with them?
- What do you do when you encounter a situation online that makes you feel uncomfortable? Do you know where to go for help?
- Would you enjoy video games if you weren’t social with your friends?
- Would you be ok with a monitoring software on your computer if it helped to keep you safe?
Jenna Greenspoon is the Head of Parenting at Kidas, a technology company focused on developing anti-cyberbullying and predator protection software for PC games.
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