No one ever tells parents that raising their kids will be an easy task, especially not now in the digital age. There are a number of online risks we face and are constantly aware of. The same goes for our kids. It’s important for kids to be (and feel) safe online. It also maintains parents’ sanity! Having some knowledge about online gaming safety and learning about the games your child plays are important. These aren’t difficult or time consuming tasks either. In fact, taking an interest in your child’s online gaming habits and interests will not only keep them safe, but also deepen the bond between the two of you.
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Learn the lingo and do your research
To begin any discussion with your kids about their online gaming, it’s important to come from a place of knowledge. If parents want to know the habits and routines of their kids’ online gaming, they need to also know the terminology. The good news is that learning about online game is quite easy with just a little research online. Look at what is trending in online gaming:
- What games are popular?
- What platforms and gaming systems are being used the most?
- Who are the popular streamers?
Once parents are aware of the ‘language’ of online gaming and have done a little research, they’ll have a far better picture of what their kids are doing online.
Listen to your child talk about gaming
As a way to further learn about your kids’ online gaming, try to listen to them talk about it with you and others whenever possible. Chances are your child is quite passionate about their gaming and are more than willing to open up about what they love about it and why. A parent’s ability to listen and be receptive shows their children that not only are they taking an interest in them, but also are supportive of their passion. Talking to kids about gaming and listening to what they say is great for strengthening relationships with them and answering questions you may have.
Formulate questions for what you’d like to learn more about
When you are listening to what they have to say about gaming and you already have a little knowledge about online gaming from your own research, it’s important to then create a further sense of credibility by asking questions of your kids. When you are at this point it is obviously important to not come across as too nosy or prying. All you want to do is fill in the gaps of your knowledge. Ask them about the genres and titles of games they play. What feelings do they get with success within the game? What are the benefits of certain technologies and devices within their gaming? By asking questions that are good conversation starters and are ‘fertile’ in nature, you’ll get a clearer picture of their gaming and further strengthen your bond with them.
Do NOT judge them for the types of games they play
With a better knowledge about the games a child plays online, it’s important to not then quickly jump to conclusions. There are plenty of games that kids play that are not remotely violent and are quite educational. Titles like Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing are great examples of popular games with kids that contain no violent content and skew educational. Parents shouldn’t judge their child based on the games they like to play. It has continually been proven by psychologists and child behaviorists, for example, that there is no connection between violent first person shooter games and violent actions in the real world by young people. Parents should see online gaming as competitive fun and not fantasizing or reenactment. Asking questions and listening to why their child likes certain games will put parents’ minds put at ease quickly.
Ask about the friends they play with online
Just like parents would in real life, it’s important to know who your child likes to play games with online. Quite often there will be a great deal of crossover with their school friends and online friends, but sometimes kids will interact with people they know only from being online. Online gaming is, after all, a global community! It’s important for kids to have healthy relationships with friends both online and offline. The same qualities they expect from friends at school or in their sports teams should be the same they expect online, so remind them of that.
Help them learn about the dangers of all online communities, not just gaming
Kids are far more perceptive and savvy than they are given credit for by their parents, especially with technology. But it’s important to remember that they are still learning and can let their guard down. Remind your child of ‘Stranger Danger’ and that it’s not just a real world concept, but online too. Online gaming safety is paramount for you and them, even if they don’t think about it themselves. They should know who they are playing games with online and it’s their right to know. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with cutting another gamer off if they don’t like where things are headed.
Start the dialog early
Children are getting increasingly younger with their use of technology, so chances are their exposure to online gaming happens around as early as 5 or 6 years old. Many parents may not even realize their kids are playing with others online. This is not intended to alarm parents, but remind them that because of the ever-increasing engagement with technology from younger ages, it’s important to start the dialog about online safety with kids early.
Most importantly, don’t turn it into “a talk”.
This dialog on online gaming safety needs to be a running one, not simply a standalone talk. Just as technology evolves, the conversation about their online safety needs to as well. We also know that for parents, no child is the same. There is no ‘one size fits all’ conversation parents can have with their kids on any issue, online gaming included. From time to time, ask them how their gaming is going, who they are playing with and if they are feeling safe. If this conversation is one that you have had on numerous occasions with them from a young age, they are more likely to be open about any difficulties they may be having.
Bonus Tip – Play a few games yourself
As a final tip for parents and gaming to keep in mind, why not try to play some games yourself? There’s no better research you can do than grabbing a controller yourself and playing. You never know, you might even enjoy it yourself! There will also be a great bonding opportunity that awaits you and your child.
You’ll notice a running message throughout this blog on talking to your kids about gaming, and that is to learn and ask questions. Gaming is first and foremost a fun activity, so keep in mind that this is your child’s primary motivation for playing games. Their safety while having fun with games is important also, even if they don’t realize it. After all, safe fun is the best kind of fun!