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While online gaming can provide hours of entertainment and social connection, the increased ability to chat, send files and share cameras heightens the risks that young people face today while playing online. From cyberbullying and online predators to hidden costs and beyond, parents are right to have concerns when it comes to their kids playing video games online. To protect your kids, take the time to discuss which games are appropriate for their age group and set expectations and rules that include time limits. Here are eight tips for safe online gaming.

  1. Don’t use personal usernames (gamertags). Kids should avoid usernames and gamertags that can reveal their identity. Always keep personal information secure and out of sight.
  2. Don’t answer personal questions. When using a text or voice chat, your child should never provide personal details — urge them to always focus on the game.
  3. Never answer private messages from strangers. If your child receives private messages from a stranger seeking information or asking to meet in person, they should not reply but report the incident to an adult immediately. Also, they should avoid the trap of sharing personal information to earn more reward points or reach the next level in a game. Cyber criminals may encourage this in order to steal personal information.
  4. Watch out for links and pop-ups. Warn your child to watch out for messages that contain links offering discounts to online gaming services and pop-ups that offer any kind of reward, as they might be phishing scams.
  5. Pay attention to streaming sites. If anyone in a group is streaming the game, the audio and text could be captured and saved on the streaming platform. Advise your child to always avoid saying or typing any personal information. Check the game system’s settings to help ensure safety and privacy.
  6. Beware of cyberbullies. Kids should not respond to anyone who is being rude or engaging in bullying behavior while playing the game. They should just block them.
  7. Check before downloading. Kids should check with a parent before using a credit card online, and always get permission before downloading games. Remind them to purchase or download games from reputable websites only.
  8. Prevention before playing. Before play begins, kids should consult with a parent to make sure their computer has activated security: a firewall, anti-spyware tools and antivirus software.

Video games are meant to be fun but there can be a darker side to the action. Strive to ensure appropriate cyber security by sharing precautions with your child and encouraging best practices. Time limits are always a good idea to avoid games interfering with schoolwork or other activities. Also, check in from time to time to openly explore with your child who they are playing with and which games they are playing. Safety first — that’s the name of the game.