While “lives” can be gained and lost with the click of a button in the online gaming world, everyday real-world lives are being affected by the things that happen in games. Recently the developers of the game, High School Story, made news by adding a cyberbullying storyline into the game. This was done after a call came into their technical helpline that included a player saying she was thinking about taking her own life. Taking into account the competitive nature of games, it is easy (just as in real world games and athletics) for things to escalate into bullying.
In addition to bullying, these online worlds built around fantasy and filled with anonymous users are ripe for a number of cybercrimes. If your children are involved in online games, here are a few tips to help keep them safe.
Games are Everywhere -- Online gaming is not just limited to games played on a computer. Nowadays, children can connect with people over the Internet on many gaming consoles like Xbox, Playstation and Wii U. Know where your kids can and do connect to their games to better monitor usage of these games.
A Game is More than a Game -- Be aware of the types of messaging available on your child’s games. Some allow voice chat, which can greatly increase the chance of cyberbullying, especially when children are in the heat of the moment in a game. Text messaging chat options can still elicit cyberbullying too and can extend beyond the game itself depending on the device the game is being played on.
Keep your Name to Yourself -- Warn your child about giving personal information out in an online game. People could be after their username and passwords in order to hack their account or negatively impersonate them online elsewhere.
Play the Ratings Game -- Know the ratings of the games that your children are playing and do not let them play above their maturity level. Games rated M for mature or 18+ will most likely have more vulgar language and content which can make cyberbullying much worse.
The fantasy and excitement that make online games so appealing for kids are also the same elements that make them a breeding ground for bullies and identity thieves. Thinking of these online communities in the same vein as a real world gathering of strangers (say a crowd at a sporting event or rock concert) and reminding your children of the above rules will help put expectations for behavior in check for children looking to enjoy their favorite game safely.
Many parents are still in the dark about cyberbullying. Become informed with our eBook: “10 Essential Things Every Parent Should Know about Cyberbullying.” Download your free copy today