Keep your kids safe from the dangers of the internet! Did you know that (Super) Mario had it’s first appearance in the video game Donkey Kong? He had to make it all the way up the ladders to save his loved one. As arcade machines and the early Nintendos were to their parents, online gaming is for the current generation of children. There are very few children or parents who have not heard of or experienced games like Minecraft, Fortnite, Call of Duty and other online interactive games.
These games can offer children an opportunity to connect with others, and can help them have fun while being somewhat social, but there are plenty of risks. Any child who is participating in online gaming should have a parent closely monitoring them, in order to curb possible dangers before they become an issue.
Here are some things to keep in mind if online gaming is a part of your family’s day-to-day life.
Risk of Addiction
Online gaming can easily become addictive for any child, and the desire to “zone out” can be strong for children who are in stressful “real life” situations. It can be ok for a short time to engage in a stress-relieving activity such as online gaming, but if you realize your child is using it as an escape from their life on a consistent basis, you will want to find out what is going on.
Perhaps your child is struggling with school, going through the breakdown of a friendship, or dealing with depression. Instead of punishing your child for their desire to play online constantly, it is important to find out the root cause of your child’s strong pull toward it, so you can help them.
Being Cyberbullied and Bullying
Cyberbullying is unfortunately in abundance. It is far too easy for children to group together online and be cruel towards a particular individual. Bullying can range from other players refusing to play with your child for no particular reason, to using foul language and insults directed towards your child.
Bullying damages both the individual who bullies and the one being bullied. A child being bullied may seem sullen and depressed, and feel torn… wanting to play the game but upset about what is going on when they do.
When kids play without a headset and only use the in-game chat systems they cannot know who they are dealing with. CoolKid2010 might not be the ten year old kids the player claims to be. The nice teenage girl your child is chatting with might be a 65 year old pedophile. You have to educate your kids about all the possibilities.
Letting Important Activities Go
If online gaming is taking up more than your child’s spare time, step in and say something. Gaming should not replace time spent on homework, playing outdoors, or time with friends. If it does, it needs to be addressed.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Be aware of what goes on in online gaming. Let your child know that you will have full access to all their online activities and conversations. Frequently check over their shoulders, literally, to take a peek at what is going on.
Have conversations with your child about their gaming, and what they like about it. Show an interest in what they are interested in – most children will jump at the chance to give you endless details about their favourite online game.
Become knowledgeable about the games your child plays online so that you can understand when there is need for concern. Keep your child involved in “real life” activities such as sports and playdates, so that they don’t feel an overwhelming need to connect online.
The online world has its benefits and drawbacks. As a parent, you can guide your child safely even through territories such as online gaming. Stay involved, and use these tips to help your child have a positive experience while participating in the online games they love but draw the line quickly when red flags keep popping up.
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