Monday, 30 July 2018

How to Better Protect your Children while Online Gaming

Miss E staged this photo when we were away on holiday in April but sometimes this is reality!

Parenting in the digital age isn't necessarily an easy task and what I've found is that there is no 'one size fits all' answer for every family. My son is now almost 15 and has been gaming online since he was around 8 or 9. Back in the early days it was playing on Minecraft on a closed server, so I knew who he was chatting to but nowadays he is everywhere, literally!

Do I worry about who he is chatting to and whether he is potentially being groomed or giving away sensitive information? Not particularly, but that's not down to naivety on my part, it is more about the fact that we have an open door and open conversation policy. I do let him have his laptop in his room but I can walk in any time and ask to see whats he's up to. We also regularly talk about what is happening with people he knows online, what I've read recently or whether he's had any close calls in his online relationships.

Thankfully nowadays, most of his chatting is done via Discord with his extended friend network from school and cadets, but there are still times and games where he will be chatting to a stranger and all he knows is the information they give him, and I'm grateful he has a questioning mind that doesn't trust everything to be as it seems.

Computing is one of his strongest skills and he is my go-to tech expert for anything I need doing, so truthfully his knowledge is far superior to either mine or my husbands and yes he could run rings around us. However, I believe that because we have given him trust over the years and always been available to talk about any topic without any judgement, that he has a good level of respect for our wishes.


Here's JJ on holiday last week. Yes he had plenty of family time, swimming, bowling,
meals out and dog walks but the gaming laptop came with us!

I also have twin 11 year old daughters and they are more of a concern. Well one in particular. One is very grounded and likes face to face relationships, sports, crafting and tangible things but the other is all about online, Youtube, style, the number of likes, doing her nails and posing for photos - oh yes, Miss M is the one I get concerned about. About six months ago she ball-dosed my husband into letting her download Music.ly, when I had already said no. She was on it for a short while and I was able to show her how fake it all was and we looked into the followers she gained and she was totally freaked out to find they were men with no videos themselves, they just appeared tom be on there to see young girls.

With this in mind, I was interested to read the findings of some research commissioned by McAfee recently. It found that despite nearly half (48%) of the parents polled believing their child is at risk of online grooming whilst gaming, over a quarter (27%) never monitor what their children are doing online and one in ten (10%) have no idea if their children speak to people online at all. This totally shocked me as its just always been obvious to me that the key to good digital parenting is open communication. We may not want to know what our kids are up to, but we need to. It's our job as parents.

The research also found that nearly two-thirds (61%) of parents allow their children to play between one and four hours of video games every day and of course with the summer holidays now being here this could be a lot more. I personally believe it is a decision for each family to make, yes my JJ will game for hours and hours some days but I'm so thankful that he has now reached a stage where he'll ask to come shopping with me or arrange to go swimming as he realises he's had too much of a good thing!

Allen Scott, Consumer EMEA Director at McAfee commented: “Gaming continues to be a popular pastime for many under 16s across the UK. There are many advantages to playing video games, and they can be a great tool at parents’ disposal during the summer months where they need to keep their children entertained while trying to manage everything else. That being said, it is imperative parents understand the cybersecurity risks their children are exposed to when playing games. They need to know what guidance and restrictions to put in place now to keep their children safe online."

Allen also shared some top tips to help with protecting your children, whilst they are online gaming -

  • Start conversations early. If you start talking about online safety early, it will make your job that much easier when your children get older. If your kids are young, start with simple rules like: “don’t open emails or messages from people you don’t know” and “decline friend requests from strangers.” You want online safety to be part of normal behaviour. 
  • Be careful what you click. Most children have been using digital activities for entertainment from an early age, desensitising them to the potentials risks of online behaviour. Cybercriminals can use the popularity of video games to entice gamers to click on potentially malicious links. Think about what you are clicking on and ensure that it’s from a reliable source. 
  • Control how long they play. Set a good example by minimising your use of devices around the home, but also use parental control software to set time limits on your child’s device usage to help minimise exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites. 
  • Avoid malicious links. If your children are searching online for gaming tips or new games to download, a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help them avoid dangerous websites and links, and will warn them if they do accidentally click on something malicious. 
  • Be protected. No matter what anyone in the family is doing online, it’s best to use a security product like McAfee Total Protection that can help keep connected devices safe from malware. Just like any PC application, be sure to keep security software updated with the latest software version
These all seem like good, common sense strategies to me and we actually have McAfee protecting our laptops at home and I find it very reassuring to have all my downloads scanned prior to my PC accepting them and the little green tick that appears next to links I might click on. 

How are you feeling about digital parenting? Do you have it sussed, with firm rules in place or are you a bit more open like me and rely on good conversation to keep your kids safe?




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