Online gaming has become somewhat of a phenomenon amongst younger generations, with children constantly discussing their gaming and individuals making careers out of blogging about gaming. Games’ market research agency Newzoo reported that gaming generated $81.5 billion in revenue globally in 2014, which is double the revenue of the international film industry. So what is it about gaming that gets kids so excited?
Research from our Zeeko All Ireland Trend Report indicates that 43% of children in 3rd class are playing games such as Minecraft and 40% of children in 2ndrd class. The reality is that children are playing games for a whole array of reasons. From the entertainment factor to the cyclical sense of reward they experience, the vast majority of kids really enjoy gaming. However, there is growing psychological research into the effects of gaming on children. Our research at Zeeko has identified 4 key threats when your child is gaming: communication with a stranger, exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying and excessive internet use. Of course all of these threats are both a concern and a challenge to you as a parent.
So what can you do to protect your child when they are gaming? As always communicating with your child about gaming is crucial, your child may see what they are doing while playing games online as purely fun and may not realise that they need to be careful while gaming. Remind your child regularly of what information is appropriate to share and what is not and that it is ok to limit how and with whom, they share information.
On a very practical level, gaming systems are computers with software that needs to be kept up‐to‐date (just like your PC, laptop, phone or tablet). Security protections are built‐in and updated on a regular basis. Take time to make sure all the online gaming devices in your house have the latest protections. Another way of protecting your child is to ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer, additional ways for you to verify who you are before you play games on that site. Make sure your child’s user name does not give away their real name, location, gender, age, or any other personal information. (Examples: beach01, book2). Your kids should also be encouraged to use an avatar, not an actual picture of themselves.
Another important protection is to ensure that your child is playing a game that is age appropriate. Our recent blog on Age Appropriate Games offers more detailed advice on this. At Zeeko we promote the Stop Block Tell Rule as a way for children to deal with cyberbullying or stranger danger. When your child is playing games online this rule is a very helpful one, to ensure that they feel empowered to deal with any unpleasant experience they may encounter while gaming.
Like every part of your child’s digital journey, gaming can be an educational experience and great fun, but it is very important that your child is given the guidance and support to ensure playing online games is a positive experience for them.
Here’s a great website on online gaming with additional information that you might find useful: http://www.internetmatters.org/advice/online-gaming/.
Here is a great glossary of terms used in Minecraft that will help you to learn more about the game: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/the-minecraft-glossary-for-parents
The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more advice and guidance on keeping your child safe online. If you would like to buy a copy of the book you can do so here.
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