Teens, Gaming and Risk

How Are Your Kids Navigating the Dangers?

It’s no secret that our generation of digital natives love their gaming. Whether it’s on their smartphones, laptops or their dedicated gaming consoles – it’s quite mind boggling just how much gaming they can squeeze into their day-to-day lives!

Well, new research by McAfee shows exactly how much time our Aussie kids are spending working on their latest gaming quest – up to a whopping 4 hours a day! And while we would love them to be directing this time to homework, my bigger concern is around the risks.

Gaming Is Not All Bad News

When managed properly, gaming can be a terrific activity that provides some genuine benefits for players. Research shows it can help manage anxiety and depression, reduce pain and even help improve the memory and resilience of players. It can also provide terrific opportunities for social interactions by breaking down the barriers of physical social groups. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it!!

Parents Concerned About Risks With Gaming

Despite our offspring assuring us otherwise, the majority of us parents do realise that there are some potential dangers associated with gaming. Two-thirds of us (65%) believe our kids are at risk of online grooming. 68% of us are concerned about cyberbullying and 58% worry that our children will become the victim of a cybercriminal’s scam.

What Are Parents Doing To Manage Risks of Online Gaming?

As first generation digital parents, we have a tough gig. Many of us are furiously trying to get our own heads around the constantly changing digital world without any intel from previous generations. Meanwhile, we need to be educating our kids about the challenges and pitfalls of the online world. It’s a big task!

Many parents do an amazing job but unfortunately, not all of us are taking the necessary steps to protect our kids and teach them how to navigate the challenges. According to the research:

  • almost 1 in 5 parents (18%) never monitor what their children are doing online;
  • 32% of parents do not follow the age ratings of games; and
  • 86% of parents allow their children to play online games recommended for older children.

This is despite the fact that many of us worry that our children will be exposed to violence, sex, drugs and gambling according to the research.

How Can We Protect Our Kids While Playing Video Games

It’s clearly one of the most popular hobbies for Aussie tweens and teens, so our job as parents is to ensure our kids are gaming as safely as possible. Here is my advice on the steps you should take to protect your kids:

  • Start Conversations Early

If you start talking about ways to game safely early, it will make your job that much easier when your children get older. If your kids are young, start with simple rules like: “don’t open messages from people you don’t know” and “decline friend requests from strangers.” You want online safety to be part of normal behaviour.

  • Be Careful What You Click

Most children have been using digital activities for entertainment from an early age, desensitising them to the potentials risks of online behaviour. Cybercriminals can use the popularity of video games to entice gamers to click on potentially malicious links. Think about what you are clicking on and ensure that it’s from a reliable source.

  • Control How Long They Play

Set a good example by minimising your use of devices around the home. Why not invest in parental control software to set time limits on your child’s device usage? Not only will you be reducing their exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites, but they will probably get more homework done!

  • Avoid Malicious Links

If your children are searching online for gaming tips or new games to download, a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help them avoid dangerous websites and links, and will warn them if they do accidentally click on something malicious.

  • Be Protected

No matter what anyone in the family is doing online, invest in a security product like McAfee Total Protection that can help keep connected devices safe from malware. Just like any PC application, be sure to keep security software updated.

Responsible Gaming Could Actually Prepare Your Child for Their Career

In my opinion, parenting is all about preparing your child for their adult life. And a big part of that is ensuring they are employable. So, before you crack down too harshly on your child’s gaming habits consider this. A recent report by McAfee, entitled Winning The Game, identified that gamers have a skills set that may help fill the current and future demand for cyber security experts. Whether it’s cracking systems, avoiding counter attacks or deciphering codes, these gaming skills were nominated by almost 1000 cyber security professionals as easily transferable to a security professional role.

So, let your kids keep playing but absolutely minimise the risks. Introduce time limits, ensure a game is suitable and teach your kids how to navigate the challenges. That way, if they end up with an illustrious career in cybersecurity, you can take all the credit!!

Take care,

Alex xx

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