Written by Angela Silva
Video games today are the chat rooms of the 90’s. Anyone can be, or pretend to be, anyone they want to be. Most video games today, even those played on a console such as an Xbox or Playstation, have an online component and incorporate a chat or messaging feature allowing players to communicate with each other. Some of them even offer video chatting.
Nearly every child between the ages of 12-17 plays video games of some sort, according to The Pew Research Center, and more than a quarter of them play online with people they don’t know.
And yes, this is alarming.
You don’t have to look far to hear horrifying stories in the news of predators luring unsuspecting video game-playing children to their homes. Because those who want children as their victims will go where the children are. And in this day and age, the children are in their own homes, playing video games.
Ask any gamer to show you the chatting feature of their game and they’ll be quick to warn you that the content is probably explicit. While parental features exist for consoles and games, there are ways around these and a lot of parents might not even realize the necessity of setting parental controls on a video game console.
But unfortunately, children have already been preyed upon and some even lost their lives by so-called “friends” they made through video games–friends that pretend to be other children, friends whose pictures depict them as children themselves, friends who offer advice and help in the game, gaining trust of the children who play, friends who suggest exchanging phone numbers, and then pictures, and then meeting up. Friends who wish to harm our children.
Yes, you should worry about your children making friends in video games. The conversations about playground and stranger safety must be expanded to video game safety. Fortunately, some states have enacted laws that forbid anyone on the sex offender registry from creating online or video game profiles, and in New York this resulted in over 3,500 accounts run by registered sex offenders to be shut down. The threat is real.
Although this is extremely worrisome, your children can still enjoy playing video games if complete transparency and safety protocols are followed.
Here are some suggestions to protect your children from predators in video games:
- Play the same games and apps as them so you know the ins and outs.
- Set parental controls.
- Know all passwords. If your child does not want to tell you the password that should be a huge red flag and that game should be forbidden.
- Disable any GPS tagging so your child’s location is never tagged on photos or information shared online.
- Keep the gaming console or computer in a public place.
- Only allow your children to play age-appropriate games.
- Talk to other parents about your concerns and ask what their policies are so you know your children are safe playing at their friends’ houses as well.
As parents, it’s vitally important that we stay aware and up-to-date on our children’s hobbies so we can protect them from the evil of this world. By following the above suggestions and maintaining an open and trusting relationship with your children, you won’t have to worry quite as much about them falling into harm’s way.