As the world has shifted into the digital age, it is more important than ever to keep our children safe online. On average, according to Statista, they spend about 20 hours a week in front of their screens playing games or surfing the web. As technology has opened a plethora of opportunities for learning and entertainment, it has also increased the number of risks for children and their safety.
This blog will guide you on the risks posed and how you can keep your child safe online.
Talk to your children
The first step when you buy your children a PC or laptop for gaming would be to educate them on the dangers and risks they may find online. It is important to explain to them about restricted websites and materials that may not be appropriate for their age group and how to ensure they are not giving away sensitive information such as their real name, address or phone number. It is also important to warn them against the risks of talking to strangers. AVG.com found that 40% of children have spoken to a stranger online.
Regularly educating and communicating with your children about staying safe online is a great way to build trust and reassurance that they are being responsible while having fun.
Bullying and Trolling
Online gaming or communities can be a great place for your children to blow off steam and share their interests with friends. Unfortunately, online bullying is common and can result in players being picked on or excluded. It is important to monitor who your children are talking to or what kind of communities they are part of.
According to GCFGlobal, trolling is internet slang for ‘a person who intentionally tries to instigate conflict, hostility, or arguments in an online social community.’
There are a few ways that you can monitor bullying and trolling:
- Keep the device in a common area. By keeping your children’s device in a common area of the house like the kitchen or the living room means you can keep an eye on the type and nature of content your child is consuming.
- Monitor their usage. By asking your children to show what kind of media or forums they are accessing, you will be able to gauge if there is any bullying or harmful content on the sites. This could be an informal conversation where you ask them to explain to you what the game or forum is about.
- Teach your children how to report/block bullies or bullying comments. By teaching your children when and how to block or report negative comments, you can be rest assured that your child is being vigilant against bullying or trolling
It’s a terrifying thought but unfortunately, scammers are known to target children in games to buy ‘special feature packages’ or to give away personal details. You can prevent your children from being scammed by ensuring there are no sensitive details on their profile and passwords are strong and regularly updated. If your child wants to purchase something online, ensure that you have checked for what they are paying for and who the money is going to/ It is important to make sure your children do not give out any payment details without you checking it first. There is anti-malware software you can install onto your child’s device to flag up if a download or link is not safe. This could stop viruses or scams from accessing their computer.
Encouraging children to take regular breaks is beneficial for their mental and physical health. It is important they stay hydrated, stretch their legs and get some fresh air. Long periods of gaming or surfing the web has been associated with mental health problems such as depression or anxiety so it is important to get away from the screen and socialise in or relax. It is also important to set a curfew for your children so it does not affect their bedtimes which could affect their productivity and concentration at school.
To summarise, the web can be a wonderful place for your child to relax from the stresses of school and have fun with their friends. Educating yourself and them on the risks that they may be faced with is an important way to keep your child safe online. The main risks are bullying, scams and health issues from long periods of sitting in front of the screen. It is important to ensure your children know how to avoid and protect themselves from these risks so they can concentrate on what’s important – entertainment.
Happy (and safe) Surfing!