Internet Safety for Kids

Resource Guide

Internet Game Safety Tips for Kids

Many parents worry about their kids spending too much time playing video games, but even just a few minutes is enough for children to be victimized. Internet-connected games are another way for cybercriminals to steal information and for cyber bullies to find victims. There are also financial security concerns anytime you purchase a game online.

Check Game Ratings Like You Would a Movie

Check with the Entertainment Software Rating Board for information on the recommended ages for a game or app. Their ratings are listed on product packaging, the website and in app stores. CTIA-The Wireless Association also provides ratings for mobile apps.

Making Purchases Through a Gaming Marketplace

Within downloaded games and apps the makers will advertise for other titles and upgrades. In a single click a kid can purchase a game that's far from cheap. That was the case a few years ago for Jarrett E. a mother of two. "I got a phone bill and immediately noticed it was almost twice the normal amount. Her then 8-year old son downloaded a free gaming app, which she knew about, but then upgraded it to a paid account. This is what's commonly referred to as a freemium game - they're free but access is limited and ads run constantly.

Wii, Xbox and PlayStation all have their own online marketplaces as well. It's important for parents to always make the purchases themselves and keep financial information password protected so kids don't accidentally put you at risk.

Information Can Accidentally Be Given Away on Social Media Games

There are a number of popular games within social media platforms. They are designed to promote sharing and getting others involved. The problem is these third party applications often access a person's account information. And it isn't always clear what they are using the information for or how well they are protecting it. Even if the gaming app isn't using the information hackers often target third party apps as a way to steal people's information.

Personal Information Can Accidentally Be Shared

Online games are very much like social media. Players create profiles that are complete with names and pictures. To avoid giving creeps information they don't need kids should follow the same rules they use on social media platforms:

  • Create vague usernames.
  • Create strong passwords.
  • Use an avatar instead of a real picture.
  • Be very careful with the information you share when interacting with others.
  • Use in-game features to disguise voices during chat sessions.

Hackers will also send innocent looking links and downloads through messaging to infiltrate your computer or device with malware that steals information. For this reason, make it a rule that your kids never click links or download anything without asking first.

Competitors Can Be Big Bullies

Because many online games have in-game chatting capabilities and instant messaging this platform has become another avenue for cyber bullying. A 2012 study by Beat Bullying found that 27% of kids between the ages of 8-11 that reported being bullied had the experience happen while playing an online game. Role-playing games where players take on different personas are particularly prone to cyber bullying.

Here are a few tips to share with your kids:

  • Don't respond to bullies - they are looking to get a reaction.
  • Make sure they know how to block a person.
  • Tell them it's okay to document any harassment.
  • Let me know it's fine to report the person or flag them for not following the conduct rules. Know how to handle this by reading the Terms of Service.
  • Encourage them to come to you if the game isn't fun because of bullies.

On the other side of the coin, your child should understand how to behave while gaming themselves. Discuss proper etiquette and lay down punishments if they are caught being the bully. It's also helpful to go over a gaming platform's Code of Conduct with your kid so they know what is acceptable and what can get a person banned from the game.

Take Full Advantage of the Parental Controls

Most gaming consoles and mobile devices give you control over the content that is seen and the features that are accessible to your kid. For instance, voice chatting and IMs can be disabled. You can also:

  • Set the account up as a child account to control content and features.
  • Set time limits for when your kid can play.
  • Set time limits for how long your kid can play.
  • Block apps from being accessed.
  • Control who they play and chat with.
  • Mute the in-game chatting.
  • Turn off location services and geotagging.
  • Disable webcams.
  • Set how purchases can be made.

Follow up by monitoring how your kids play online. Some games allow you to create activity reports which come in handy. Xbox also gives players Reputation Scores based on their in-game behavior.

You can't protect your kids every minute that they are playing in the virtual world. They have access to online games at school, their friends' houses, libraries and just about everywhere else. That's why it's important to discuss how kids can protect themselves while they're playing. Let them know that they don't have to put up with creeps when they are just having fun, and that they can come to you to get any problems solved.

"1 in 20 children– has arranged a secret meeting with someone they met online."

- Netmums survey of 825 kids

Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.