With virtual learning in full swing and social distancing still a thing, kids are turning to screens, streams, and other digital forms of entertainment more than ever. Perhaps the fan-favorite of all in your household is video games.
And you might be surprised there are quite a few cognitive benefits of gaming. The trick as a parent is finding a balance of embracing those upsides while monitoring the downsides — cyberthreats. While there are several video game security guides to help inform how you parent and protect your little gamer, we’ve simplified the pointers into five steps to keep your kids safer while gaming.
Educate your kids on video game cyberthreats
Educating your kids about looming cyberthreats can help inform how they interact online. Infections in the forms of viruses and malware, swatting and doxing attempts, and active listening are all threats to video gamers. Knowing how to identify and prevent each is a great defense against cybercriminals. For infections, that might mean being aware of red flags like sluggish devices and constant unwanted pop-ups. To prevent swatting and doxing, that is when cybercriminals send the police or FBI to your home, kids should never share home addresses or location data. To prevent active listening, stress to kids the importance of using a mic and video camera sparingly and to turn them off when not in use.
Remind kids not to overshare while gaming
Kids are chronic oversharers online. Reminding them not to be and reminding them often could make or break whether their — or your — personal information is compromised. This means ensuring kids aren’t including personal information in their Gamertags or usernames and also in their passwords. On the note of passwords, double-check kids are using a strong one and not the same one across multiple accounts. Believe it or not, 52 percent of people use the same password for all of their accounts, according to Google, making it easy peasy for cybercriminals to take over accounts.
Express an interest in what video games your kids are playing
It’s nearly impossible to know precisely what your kids are doing on all of their devices. However, merely expressing an interest in how they’re spending their time will help you research what games they’re playing and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings attached to them. Think of it as a maturity rating, but know that the ESRB doesn’t monitor all games. For this reason, you’ll also want to research the features of games, such as chat boxes or mic options, to help you monitor their activities. Bottom line, the more you know, the better you can protect your kids online.
Control in-game purchases
Rather than giving kids access to your credit card to make in-game purchases, deem yourself their gaming financial advisor and be the one to input those payment details yourself. This way, you can evaluate whether a purchase is being made from a trusted site and, more importantly, you can uncheck the box to keep your payment details for later. The smaller the digital footprint you leave behind, the harder it is for cybercriminals to target you.
Know what parental controls are available
Most mainstream video games tout parental controls as a feature and some even allow you to set up separate controls for different kids. It’s important to be aware of software updates on these games, however, and double-check whether your parental controls are still in place after updates. For added protection, install parental control software on your kids’ devices.
The way kids play is changing every day, and families overall are turning to tech-forward activities to socialize from a distance. We all can and should embrace the beauty of our connected world — but do so responsibly.
For even more video game security tips, reference Norton’s comprehensive video game security guide:
Graphic courtesy of Norton.
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