20 Things You Can Do To Avoid The Dangers of online gaming
Online gaming is really fun. It’s also a sociable time to enjoy with friends that teach us teamwork and sportsmanship. This is all great, of course. It’s not without risk, though. So let’s walk through some of the dangers of online gaming to be aware of and how to keep safe during your gaming experience.
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What are the dangers of online gaming?
There are many benefits to playing online games with friends, especially for younger people. It’s really key to know some of the dangers of playing online games so you can protect their wellbeing.
Games give young people a form of escapism from everyday life. The social element of some of these games can make kids feel part of a tight-knit community. There’s a level of guidance to put in place on what games are appropriate and when is appropriate to play. Children are at risk of certain elements like bullying, grooming and in the more extreme scenarios, addiction to gaming.
We’re going to offer some advice to combat these dangers of online gaming and list some tactics to try to support any younger people you know who might be at risk of these issues. You can help them build a resilience and encourage them to make safe choices whilst they game.
Addiction to Online Gaming
Spot the signs
There’s been a lot of noise in recent news about addiction to online gaming. A lot of parents are concerned about their kids potentially becoming addicted to the games they are playing online.
This is unsurprising. Similar to any other hobby, be it football, reading or even chess, those kids indulging in video games recreationally will also do it deeply and with enthusiasm. This might lead to the desire to play either more frequently or for longer periods.
There are games purposely developed to minimise these hurdles of repeat play. They simply aim to maximise enjoyment. The way parents can gain control is to utilise screen time limitations. This is an option available on a lot of smartphones and consoles. This encourages healthy boundaries.
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Addiction to gaming as a classified disorder
The World Health Organisation has caused these worries to be intensified through the introduction of a gaming section dealing with disorders caused by addictive behaviour. This also tackles drugs, alcohol and gambling. There have been some strong counter-arguments about the appropriateness of online video games being part of this list.
The criteria involves identifying extreme examples of behaviour pointing to addiction. A typical child playing a lot of games isn’t addicted. When their gaming is coming at a harsh detriment of other areas of their life and this continues over a 12 month period does this behaviour fall into this category.
It’s important to know that the dopamine levels a game can produce in the brain are only 1/10th of those produced by chemical elements that are addictive. Meaning, they’re not especially physiologically addictive. Changing a child’s behaviour is about helping them form a new habit when considering the dangers of online gaming.
What should you know about gaming disorder?
So what exactly is addiction to gaming and what steps can you take to prevent your child from falling victim to it?
- Monitor their gaming times, what they play and how long per session
- Use time slots / limits
- Encourage break times
- Review the time they spent playing
- Seek professional support if needed
Like a lot of things online and indeed in life, online games are better fun with others. Technology has allowed a shift from needing at least two people in the same room to being able to play with multiple people online. The number of people able to participate in a game has increased greatly, too. Fortnite, for example, can see some 100 people in the same fight.
Increase of social networks in gaming
Technology has also advanced to offer us new types of communication over the past few years. Games were once seen as a separate entity from social media, but now there’s a huge overlap. This is where a child is open to interacting with a person they don’t know; in games like Roblox, for example.
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Using personas to protect identity
During a game, players don’t always know who their opponent is. Personas online in games might purport to be other kids, but it’s difficult to validate if this is true. Parents and carers should know what games their kids are playing and how the safety settings can be best used.
When done correctly, playing with other kids online can be an enriching experience for a child. It helps them develop the ability to connect. This could even be with people from other countries and cultures and this is a truly valuable experience.
What to do:
- Check device settings
- Store those devices in a shared location
- Avoid using headphones
- Use notifications with sounds
- Set up a child-friendly account
- Play as a family
- Make real friends online through various settings
- Check settings on devices
- Keep devices in shared family spaces
- Play sound on speakers, not a headset
- Turn on notifications on your account
- Set up children’s accounts
- Play together
- Use settings to create groups of real friends to play with
Play active games
Video gaming is thought of as a largely sedentary activity. Games coming out these days plus evolving technology are encouraging motion and full body involvement. This might be having a walk with family whilst playing Pokemon Go, or bobbing around the lounge to Just Dance. They offer subtle ways of having a workout whilst you play.
Studies have shown that when a person spends hours sitting down they increase their risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis). This is true for any activity that is mostly stationary This can happen watching TV excessively, reading or sitting and listening to music.
Children playing video games should take breaks regularly. Ideally every hour. This will encourage movement.
An additional area of concern is the bright lights that often flash during games. Today’s research shows video games do not cause epileptic episodes like at a concert, for example. It can trigger a seizure, but the chances are incredibly small and those affected will already suffer from Photosensitive Epilepsy.
Dangers of Online Gaming: Costs
Online games need some hardware to be played, and a fast internet connection. This could imply you need the latest and best thing for your child. But there is a variety of ways a child can participate in playing games online for cheap. Tablets can be used along with older versions of smartphones. Roblox is a great example of a game that doesn’t require up-to-date devices.
Parents should be mindful of in-app purchases. These often pop up after the initial (free) download of an app. This method is becoming a more popular way of software providers funding the development of the game that is initially offered for free. You might be asked for charges for characters or some kind of special features. This is called a freemium game. Fortnite is a great example of these. It’s a free game that makes a ton of money. You might want to unlock a particular dance or outfit for your character, and that’s where the profit lies.
Often referred to as skin gambling, this is an opportunity for winning an in-game item that is of value to the player. This might be comparable to gambling where luck is needed to win a desirable prize. Similar to slot machines. Spinning to win.
From the Gambling Commission’s perspective, this isn’t specifically classified as gambling because there’s no monetary value attached to the items, outside of the actual game. It’s therefore not thought of as gambling and if it were, it would not be sold to children.
Some countries like Belgium have prohibited the use of Loot Boxes within games as this country do view it as encouraging children to gamble. There isn’t a generalised consensus. The UK and USA must now label their games as having in-app purchases.
It’s important to note there is a difference between online games and online video games. The former usually points to online gambling sites offering things like online slots and table games. Online video games, though, are often played via a console and offer a mission or challenge within a story.
Kids who attempt to get more in-game currency in order to purchase these loot boxes are typically targeted. It’s really key that you as the parent knows this is happening and you educate your children about it and put appropriate security levels on any payment methods they could have access to.
Free games are notorious for malware and spyware. It’s key to avoid unknowingly downloading these kinds of apps.
- Research the apps that your kids are downloading (or want to download)
- Use only legitimate websites for downloading these apps
- Explain the risks of downloading them to your kids, so they can make informed decisions
- Set boundaries online and agree which sites and apps are best to use
Thanks to the interactivity of online video games, people play in the same space together. This opens up the opportunity for younger children to be exposed to undesirable people, language and interactions. More violent games, for example, might bring more passionate players and kids accessing these games under the certification age will be at risk.
Remember there is no proven link between violent video games and offline violent behaviour
It’s a really common opinion that violent games cause violent behaviour. There is yet to be a direct link between the two.
Many studies have assessed this and there is no universally accepted result pointing to teenage violence with the increase in sales of violent games. If anything, it’s proving that being inside playing these games is keeping teenagers from roaming the streets where they are likely to engage in such behaviour.
It’s not to be ignored, though. It’s key to be sensitive toward how a video game might affect a child. Parents might not know about the specific violent, sexual or other adult images their kids will be exposed to within a game and it’s best to follow age ratings for that reason.
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