Our Children and Online Gaming: Risks and Protection
One of the most popular discussions parents face today is the one they have with their children about the amount of time they are allowed to spend on computers, tablets, mobiles to play online games. This type of discussion has become an integral part of their daily routine.
What is online gaming?
online games are technology-based games that connect two or more players and are played exclusively online, thus requiring a direct connection. In addition to being fun and promoting teamwork, they involve fictional adventures that attract the children. Moreover, online single-player games are also very common.
In 2020, the latest statistics by Statista showed that there are around 2.7 billion online gamers all over the world, including 1.5 billion only in the Asia and the Pacific region, which makes it the biggest online gaming region in the world.
What are the risks on our children?
While our children grew up in the digital world and got so familiar with it and they have become closely attached to it and to online games in particular, it is still our duty to warn them against the risks they might face, most importantly:
Sitting for long periods of time playing online games leads to a feeling that one can’t help but play social isolation, and too much focus on winning the game to achieve the highest scores, up to neglecting other activities and duties. This kind of addiction causes serious health and psychological issues.
Cyberbullying and Cyber Extortion
According to Get Safe Online, some players use their anonymity to disturb other players and intentionally spoil their pleasure of play. Sometimes this disturbance escalates into cyberbullying, by showing denigration, sending offensive and harmful messages, or making disrespectful comments that affect your child’s state of mind.
A study published in Al Sharq, the Qatari newspaper, showed that children are exposed since the age of 8 to cyber extortion attacks which are usually carried out openly and publicly, and that the extortion of male children is harder than that of female.
As online multiplayer games grow in scope, your children may be tricked into giving personal information to anonymous people that they know nothing about except that they play the same game with them. They may disclose personal information or important data or may be deceived by an email sent from an anonymous sender that may look like the game company, asking your child to provide his username and password to win a prize and to click a suspicious link that gives the sender easy access to his account.
Also, one of the major privacy concerns when it comes to gaming is to use webcam loopholes for hacking purposes to abuse your child.
One reason why online gaming is dangerous is the uploading of game software by checking their origin or the uploading of games that may contain malicious links, where a loophole in it can cause serious damage to the device, to the data or to your child. So, make sure to scan the devices for malware using anti-virus software and to not upload games from illegal sites.
How to reduce these risks?
1. Use Parental Controls
It is your responsibility to prevent your children’s hobby from turning into an unhealthy addiction. Setting clear and fixed rules on the types of games and the allowed playtime is very important. However, don’t be rude in applying them. Try your best to set a good example for your child and look for alternatives that your child may find pleasant especially during long periods of time such as during lockdowns or while staying at home, where very few options are available.
2. Protect your Children and Devices
Make sure to use an effective antivirus software on your devices. Educate your children about the importance of protecting their personal information and data and not disclosing them and tell them not to get involved in discussions with anonymous players that are irrelevant to the game. Also, if you have to buy an online game, by it from an original app store to ensure it is safe and suitable for your children.
3. Read the Terms of Play
Do it while your children are around to further educate them about the importance of privacy and suitability so that they become more knowledgeable about these games.
4. Set Time Limits
A study conducted by Wiley on 2442 children aged between 7 and 11 years found that playing online games for one hour a week was associated with enhanced motor skills and better school performance, with no other benefits reported with children who have played more than two hours a week, while children who have played nine or more hours a week were particularly negatively affected.
In conclusion, gaming may be either a hobby or an addiction. It’s good to encourage your children’s hobbies, provided that their physical and mental health is not affected. Games do have some scientifically proven advantages including memory and focus improvement, etc., but only if they are monitored and controlled in a gentle way. In a nutshell, online games as such are neither good nor bad, but what makes them so is to what extent they are used.