8 Ways to Make Gaming Online Safer For Your Kids

Many online gaming platforms and sites are teeming with predators, cybercriminals, or crooks hiding behind the screen. They look for children to exploit or find ones they can use as a gateway for an attack.

It’s parents’ responsibility to learn your kids’ new digital environment so you can keep them safe while they play games. But how can you protect youngsters online? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Set Up Parental Controls

For parents whose children play online, parental controls can be your best friend. They allow you to limit your children’s screen and gaming time, restrict the type of content they have access to, and, best of all, block contact from strangers.

Settings and features will of course depend on the type of gadgets your kids use. You should definitely learn about the different types of parental controls you can use for smartphones, desktops, and consoles like 3DS, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation.

Related: The Complete Guide to Parental Controls

There are parental control apps you can install too. These will let you set customizable time limits for online games, social networks, and other apps. Some even allow parents to instantly lock the child’s device or secretly take screenshots at certain intervals.

The console’s privacy settings will let you control who can message them, or prevent strangers from seeing their name.

2. Use Strong Passwords

Use strong passwords for your children’s accounts and teach them the importance of keeping this password safe. They can’t give out their passwords and other personal information to strangers. They shouldn’t share any private information including login details in chats or on social media platforms.

Teach them to enable 2FA (two-factor authentication) or MFA (multiple-factor authentication) wherever possible.

Remind your children never to use a password they’re already using for other accounts to keep them safe from credential stuffing attacks. And they need to make sure they log out of their gaming accounts after use.

3. Download Only From Trusted Sources

Teach young children to only download apps, games, or expansions with your permission. Older children should be taught about the dangers of downloading apps and games from third party sites.

Many hackers spread malware that masquerades as a gaming app, an expansion, or a cheat code. Once downloaded, they install malicious software that gives hackers wider access to the device.

Remind your children only to download games from official sources. But while many of these official sites enforce security checks, a few bogus apps can still fall through the cracks so always read reviews before downloading.

4. Choose Age-Appropriate Games

Video game ratings help parents determine if the content is appropriate for their children even before buying them. Ratings vary depending on location, the type of device, or the kind of platform.

For instance, PEGI is used primarily in Europe and Asia. PEGI 3 means the game is suitable for all age groups and PEGI 18 means the game depicts adult content like gross violence. Other numbers in between these two are set depending on the severity of sexual content, violence, or type of language used in the game.

Games distributed in the US, on the other hand, use ratings from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). Instead of numbers, ESRB uses letters like E if it’s suitable for all ages (or Everyone) and A if the content is for Adults only.

The App Store uses global Application Ratings. Numbers indicate the ratings. For example, 4+ means there is no objectionable material in the app, and 17+ means it may contain material that is not suitable for children under age 17.

For Android users, there are Google Age Ratings based on a system set by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). These are often based on the widely used ratings in the region.

Remind your children never to click links sent to them via chat by strangers. Even those sent by their friends can pose security risks. Phishing links are often sent to youngsters who unwittingly click on them thinking it leads to a cheat code or a website with a downloadable expansion pack.

RELATED: 7 Quick Sites That Let You Check If a Link Is Safe

Instead of a cheat code or bonus content, it leads to a pharming site designed to collect their information. Private details collected can be used for fraud or identity theft.

Remind children to be careful with file attachments too as these may come with malware.

6. Update The Device

Make sure your child’s device is regularly updated with the latest software patches. Consoles (and other devices) are often launched with unknown vulnerabilities. These are discovered later on, and so manufacturers release updates to fix them.

Unpatched vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers and cybercriminals who can infiltrate your network. They can use your child’s device as a gateway to get into your other gadgets at home or access the system at work.

7. Ditch The Headset

This is especially important for parents of small children. You might think giving your kid a headset will keep the house quiet but you risk not knowing if they’re already talking to a stranger. Some online predators pretend to be children and lurk around online gaming platforms.

They befriend youngsters, gain their trust over time, and may then abuse them in some way.

Online grooming is done by teaching kids to keep their conversations a secret from their parents. And because parents don’t know that their kids are talking to a predator, kids are manipulated into sending photos and videos. Worse still, they can be blackmailed into meeting in real life.

A headset makes online grooming easier since parents won’t spot red flags right away.

8. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi

Your kids might be tempted to connect to a free, unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspot while they’re out and playing on a remote device like their smartphone or Nintendo Switch. But connecting to this type of network comes with a host of security risks.

Hackers can easily position themselves between your child’s device and the connection point. They can access information sent out like email addresses, passwords, or credit card information (if used to buy apps or make in-app purchases). Or they can redirect the device’s internet traffic.

This is known as a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack and can be very damaging.

Teach Kids About CyberSecurity

It’s never too early to teach kids about cybersecurity. These digital natives have integrated gadgets, apps, and the internet into their daily lives. So it is important to teach them about the dangers that lurk online as early as possible.

Parents need to know about their kids’ new digital environment. Play online games once in a while. Get to know how the games work. Find out security flaws and vulnerabilities. Learn the gadget’s parental controls and privacy settings. Only then will you be able to effectively protect your children online.

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