Safe Kids Online Logo

How to Protect Kids Playing Video Games

kid holding video game controller

What Risks Does Online Gaming Pose to My Child?

Online gaming is popular among kids and teenagers, but there are many risks associated with various games and gaming platforms. While the privacy settings of a console or game may offer some shield, playing games online may jeopardize the child’s privacy. Sharing personal details for an online game might seem harmless, but such an action can open doors to unexpected risks. In-game chat features offer a space for both friendship and fighting, making it vital to tread carefully. Even friend requests, seemingly innocuous, should be approached with caution.

What to Look Out For

Information Theft: The risks associated with personal information being stolen through videogames are significant. Stolen personal information can lead to identity theft, where sensitive data is exploited for financial gain or to engage in fraudulent activities. Hackers may leverage this data to compromise other online accounts or engage in phishing scams. These threats highlight the need for video game players to safeguard their personal details, employ strong security measures, and remain cautious about sharing any sensitive information while participating in gaming communities.

Grooming: Grooming in the videogame community poses a serious risk to children. Groomers establish a false sense of trust to manipulate and exploit children emotionally, psychologically, or  sexually. Groomers may at first present themselves as gaming peers, and then gradually push boundaries, coerce kids into sharing personal information or inappropriate content, and attempt to meet in person.

In-Game Purchases: While in-game purchases can enhance the gaming experience, they have much more significant drawbacks. Children might inadvertently overspend or share payment details, costing your money. The desire for virtual items and rewards can sometimes overshadow responsible spending habits. Moreover, in-game purchases can lead to conflicts or social pressure among peers, impacting children’s emotional well-being.

Inappropriate Content: Videogames often incorporate a wide array of content, some of which may not be suitable for all audiences. Exposure to violent, sexually explicit, or otherwise inappropriate material can have a lasting impact on young minds, affecting emotional well-being and desensitization to harmful themes. Additionally, interacting with such content might lead to misunderstandings or the normalization of inappropriate behaviors.

Best Practices for Parents

Vet and Filter Content Carefully: Enable content filters within games and on gaming platforms to ensure that your children are exposed only to age-appropriate content. More direct supervision may be necessary on platforms without these features. Case-by-case analysis is the best way to curate your children’s gaming experience.

Use Privacy Settings: Teach your children to set strong and unique passwords for their gaming accounts. Encourage them to enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Make sure that they understand the importance of not sharing their login information with anyone, even friends.

Report and Block: Make sure your kids know how to report and block players who engage in bullying, harassment, or other alarming behavior. Show them how to use these features and reassure them that it’s okay to disengage from negative interactions.

Set Spending Limits: Many games include purchasable additional content. Establish clear spending limits for your children and teach them about responsible spending. Consider linking a prepaid card with a specific budget for game-related purchases.

Sources and Additional Reading

For More on Video Games

Go to the Video Games Archive →