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Tips for parents to keep their child safe while playing online games

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Are you a parent with children who play online games? Do you know what they are playing and who they’re playing with? Here are some tips on how to keep your kids safe online.

Parenting expert Jackie Coates, the head of the Telstra Foundation, has come up with expert advice for parenting in the digital world.

Online gaming is hugely popular now but often gets a bad rap when it comes to safety and security.

Here are some tips for parents with children who are playing online games:

KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD IS PLAYING

You wouldn’t let your child watch any movie they want so it should be the same for gaming.

Both come with clear ratings to give a clear indication on what age group it is intended for.

“You want to know what your child is playing so you can talk about their gaming in a positive way and stay connected,” Coates says.

“Ask your child to show you how to play – younger children love teaching the teacher.”

If you understand the game your child is playing and what’s involved you will be in a better position to see if there are any risks or dangers.

KNOW WHO THEY PLAY WITH

The whole idea of online gaming is competing against other players over the internet.

And these opponents might not necessarily be their friends or people they know.

Multiplayer games like Fortnite, are hugely popular right now.

But who is your child playing with?  Are they friends or strangers, kids or adults?

It’s not uncommon for these games to involve voice chat or text chat to communicate so parents need to understand the environment and set the ground rules.

“Set parental controls for younger children who may not be as savvy online,” Coates said.

“And for my older teen only have the voice and text channels open to friendship groups.

“Never share information to people you don’t know. The stranger danger message applies online too.”

PLAY NICE AND PLAY SMART

How we act online should be the same as how we act in the real world – with courtesy and kindness.

“I set some behaviour rules upfront about my expectations – no bullying, keep it clean, nice and fun,” Coates said.

“I also talk to them about gaining protocols – things like don’t go idle in games or frequently drop out of multiplayer games.

“Don’t team up against an individual or be over critical of other people’s playing styles or shortcomings.”

It’s important for a parent to teach the child the difference between being competitive and being a bully and between friendly exchanges and verbal harassment.

And be sure they don’t share any personal details about themselves and to protect their own privacy and the privacy of others.

KNOW WHEN TO SWITCH OFF

If it was up to your child they would play online for hours on end.

It’s not hard to get engrossed in the game and want to keep playing while homework, household chores and other activities are being neglected and ignored.

“It’s important to set time limits and guidelines to encourage regular screen breaks and a healthy balance between their online and offline worlds,” Coates said.

“I recommend a couple of hours maximum and avoid the all-nighters that some teens push for.

“This is an area you need to stay on top of and be consistent. Make sure the rules are clear and enforced.”

Some parents limit opportunities for gaming during the week because homework and family time take priority.

Check your child’s gaming console for its parental controls which can include limiting playtime and blocking access to certain games and websites.