The summer holidays are usually a time when routines are less strict and when families have more time to spend together. That’s the theory, but in practice it is also a time when tensions can arise because children want to spend what free time they have playing game consoles or gaming using their smartphones. This can be a challenge for parents to deal with. We regularly hear from parents that they feel overwhelmed firstly by the amount of games available online. Secondly by the concern about what their child is doing while they are gaming online and who they could potentially be interacting with. Firstly, you’re not alone in being overwhelmed by the amount of online games available. There was a time when the only way to play games was using a console but now children can use tablets, iPads and/or smartphones to download games to play. The gaming industry is big business; revenues hit 66 billion dollars in 2013 and are projected to reach 79 billion dollars by 2017. Leaving aside the commercial element parents, have legitimate concerns about the impacts of gaming on their children. These concerns range from the impact of spending so much time on screens to the potential for children to be interacting with a stranger when they are gaming online. So, what are the things that you need to bear in mind in relation to ensuring that your child stays safe if they are playing online games this summer?
One of the most effective ways to familiarise yourself with the games your child is playing online is to play with them. This is particularly useful when it comes to young children as it promotes and encourages co-operation. Obviously, for older children this may not work quite so well. With older children, open communication and active mediation are the most effective ways to be aware of what your child is doing when they are gaming online. Regularly reminding your child that they can come to you if they experience anything when they are gaming that makes them feel uncomfortable is also important. One of the ‘rules’ we promote at Zeeko in relation to staying safe online, is that the friends you have in the real world, should be the same as the people you know in the virtual world. In relation to online gaming this means that you should only play games online with the people you know and have met in the real world. Also, try to discourage the use of headsets, as there use can sometimes mean that your child can be disconnected from the real world and could be using the headset to interact with someone not known to them online.
Screentime is also a concern when it comes to gaming. Ultimately, as a parent it is up to you to decide what works best for your family in relation to the amount of time that you allow your child to spend online. At Zeeko, we have developed the 5:1 Rule which encourages children to spend 5 hours doing real world activities for every 1 hour they spend online. Another concern that parents have, particularly over the summer, is how they can ensure that their child stays safe when they are not under parents supervision. Our recent blog on this topic offers more specific advice on this.
Online gaming is now a part of a child’s digital journey. Working with your child in an atmosphere of co-operation and trust is a great way for you both to learn about online gaming.
The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more detailed advice on making your digital devices safer and other advice on keeping your child safe online. You can buy a copy of the book here.