For many families, video games are a normal part of everyday living. Many of our children are plugging into consoles, typing commands using a keyboard, downloading games on their smartphones, or using their tablets to play Candy Crush.
While this might not be a sure recipe for disaster, it can open our children to many unseen digital pitfalls. That is why it is important that we understand the potential dangers facing our sons and daughters when they log on to the digital world.
Online Video Games And Teens
According to Daily Mail, close to seven out of ten households acknowledge that they play screen games. These numbers are up dramatically from 1992, especially among women, young adults, and pensioners. One of the factors contributing to this increase may be the advent of mobile gaming using tablets, handheld systems, and Smartphones. While the digital realm is great for escaping the daily grind or bonding with peers, the connectivity of today’s games leaves our kids vulnerable to unseen dangers. By utilizing social media and headsets, today’s children are able to communicate with friends and strangers within online games. Consider data from an article appearing in The Telegraph that shows four in five teenagers take measures to hide their online activities from us. Numbers like these show that many of us don't know what our children are doing online. Downloading Danger? Potential Trouble For Gamers One surprising way online games can potentially harm our children is the possibility that the child will be prosecuted for issuing terroristic threats. This occurs when a child directs threatening language to another player, even if it is related to the game. It sounds outlandish, but in today’s society all threats are taken seriously. Even if a child is playing an anonymous game, the authorities will be able to track down user id’s, cell phone numbers, and ultimately the address of the person who pays the cell phone or Internet bill.
In addition, the parent-free zones of video games can turn into cyberbullying hot zones. According to legal experts, Slater and Gordon and the Anti-Bullying Alliance, 55 percent of England’s children and young people accept cyberbullying to be part of their everyday lives. Even though cyberbullying is an issue we commonly associate with social media and cell phones, parents need to realize that some gamers may utilize “in house” messaging systems or headsets to harass others. Parents also need to realize occasionally online predators use games to make contact with potential victims. This tactic is very common across the pond in the United States. Regardless of location, online video games provide perfect opportunities to find children, make contact, and build a relationship behind the guise of friends playing a game. After a pedophile gains a child’s trust, they can begin grooming them to meet in real life or request sensitive images. Another possible negative facet is how online video games may expose our children to a variety of people who may not share our family values. This can result in children being hearing language and ideas that are not age appropriate or healthy. The anonymity of the Internet and many social media games make this a very real possibility, because they randomly pair users up from around the world. We have very little control in who our children encounter and interact with online. And finally, online video games allow our children to disconnect from the real world. While this might allow a child to de-stress every now and then, problems can arise. For some of our youth, they can become so immersed in the online gaming world that they forget to eat or sleep--losing touch with reality. This excessive gaming can become dangerous if playing begins to interfere with a child’s ability to function and thrive, eventually turning into a real addiction. Protecting Our Children Awareness and education can prevent many of the dangers listed above. Recently, data has been released showing the numerous benefits online games offer our children. By teaching basic protocol on sharing personal information, instilling a strong sense of social media etiquette, and by monitoring a child’s online gaming we can help ensure our sons and daughters are able to enjoy all apps and games with minimal risk. How do you keep a child safe while they are playing online games?
About Hilary Smith
Hillary Smith loves technology and hasn’t met an app that didn’t catch her attention. After graduating from the Northwestern Medill School of Journalism, Hillary began a career as a freelance writer focusing on the challenges of digital parenting. She works out every day and spends time with her children, ages 4 and 7.