Keeping your child safe online is something every parent must consider. Even if your child only has a mobile phone, these days that gives them access to anything online and gives others access to your child.
The best way to keep your child safe is to keep communications open without being judgmental or authoritarian about it. The idea is to create a situation where your child is not afraid to talk to you about anything.
Don’t Ban Games
The minute you ban games, you set up a situation where many children will simply lie to their parents. This doesn’t mean it’s okay for your child to do things that you dislike, but at some point, all kids will grow up and do things differently from their parents. One way to help them navigate situations is to let them experience, under your supervision, some things that you may disagree with while keeping them safe.
Play with Your Child
One way to really get to know what your kids are involved in is to play the game with them. Even if you aren’t good at it, playing with your child will open up all sorts of avenues for communication and understanding.
Set Limits and Rules
Most computers and consoles today come with some parental controls, that you can use to set limits and help them stick to the rules you’ve created. If you have a rule that they can only play for one hour a day, you can set timers to shut the internet off after that time has been used.
Explain the Danger of Strangers Online
While most kids are in more danger from people they know, an online multiplayer game, opens your child up to meeting more people, that they feel as if they know. This can open them up to issues they may not really understand if you don’t talk to them about this issue. Find stories of children who have been tricked; talk about it and discuss how they are going to protect themselves from that kind of situation. You may be surprised that they are aware and already do things to protect themselves.
Switch Off Voice Chat in Multiplayer Games
Some of the online multiplayer games now have an option where you can talk to others as you’re playing. This feature is not suitable for kids at all, as the language used is often inappropriate. There is also the potential risk of sexual harassment and bullying.
Talk to Your Child about Their Online Social Circle
It’s important to understand the social circle that your child or any gamer joins in order to play multiplayer games. They will get to know the people in their group and see them as friends. You want to know about the people in the group, what they are like and be aware of the kind of things being said. Similar to how you would access their real friends.
Discuss Harmful Language and Behaviour with Your Child
One thing that most online gamers are eventually exposed to (either by witnessing it, doing it, or experiencing it), is online bullying and other harmful behaviour. Talk to them about it, so that they know you don’t want them to participate in it.
Encourage Your Child How to Report Inappropriate Behaviour
Most games now have a feature that lets you report the bad behaviour of other players. Teach them when and how to use it.
There is no reason your child cannot play age-appropriate games in a healthy way. There are numerous parental controls you can invest in, but the very best control is teaching your child self-control. One way to do that is to be open, honest and transparent about your thoughts and feelings about gaming online, while also supporting your child’s desire to do so in a safe manner.