Online games can be a lot of fun, but they can also pose several dangers to your children if neither you nor your children know how to be safe in an online gaming environment. It’s very easy to stay safe in online games with a few simple tips.
1. Keep a Clean and Secure Computer
Viruses and spyware can be acquired through online games through various means. Another player could be sending the virus or the virus can be acquired through infected gaming software downloaded from the Internet. Keep a reliable anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-spyware on your computer at all times in order to combat these threats. Ensuring that your computer is free of junk and running well will also help prevent infections.
2. Never Share Personal Information
A child should always know to never give out their personal information to people that they meet while gaming. Full name, address, phone number, school name and more should all be off-limits to give out to people in the game. If it’s a case of a moderator or administrator within the game asking for this information, it’s still never a good idea to give it out. Game admins almost never ask for personal information outside of perhaps your email address, and they will only ask you for this information if you request their assistance.
It’s also important to ensure that they know to never give out credit card information online. If the game requires subscription fees or one-time purchase fees, they should know to ask their parents to look through the game and publisher to see if they’re legitimate and safe.
3. Avoid External Links
People commonly use programs called bots to advertise malicious websites in online games. The websites may advertise things such as free online currency for the game, special offers and more. However, the website is really just a front to steal personal information or game accounts. It may also be a hidden virus. Avoid any and all links displayed by people in chat logs, private messages and more in games.
4. Knowing How to Handle Harassment
While you will find many genuinely nice people in online games, there are many bullies online who are quick to harass nearly anyone that they see. Knowing how to respond to these people is key for everyone in the game. If you start feeling like someone’s harassing you, ignore them, mute them or put them on your block list. Almost all games have at least one or all of these options. If not, there’s always the manual method of ignoring bullies, which is simply not responding to them at all. If someone is being particularly bad, they can be reported to the game’s moderation staff who will handle the case from there and determine what punishment the person will need. Never be afraid to alert the staff or, in a child’s case, an adult for help with harassment online.
5. Use Long and Secure Passwords
When most people get ‘hacked’ in online games, it’s commonly not due to any actual coding knowledge or keyloggers. Believe it or not, many people just guess the passwords of others through various clues or just common passwords that people usually use. In order to avoid this, use long and somewhat complex passwords including symbols and letters. This may seem like an easy way to forget your passwords, but there are several ways of making a password that is both secure yet very hard to guess. You can also write them down on a pad of paper, but ensure that this paper is in a secure location to avoid people who may use your computer or console from gaining access into your account.
6. Never Meet People You Meet Online in Real Life
As stated before, there are plenty of genuinely nice people online, but you never know who may not actually be nice in real life. It’s dangerous to agree to meeting someone that you meet online in real life, so it’s best to decline any offers to do so. If your child encounters someone particularly persistent in meeting them in real life, tell them to block them. If a person is innocent in their reasons for meeting, they’ll typically accept “no” as an answer and move on. Your children should also know to alert an adult whenever this happens.
Staying safe is part of having fun, and it’s vital for both parent and child to understand that. Sit them down, talk with them and ensure that they understand how to properly utilize these tips while they’re playing online games. Most importantly, let them know that they can come to you with anything that seems odd, uncomfortable or frightening while online. While these steps are the framework for keeping children safe in online gaming, communication is the foundation to keeping that security strong.