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Are you keeping your child safe while they game online?

The world of online gaming can appear to be vast and ensuring the safety of your child who games online can seem a dauntless task to the majority of parents who did not grow up gaming online and reminisce about the days of Super Mario Cart. Thankfully, the major gaming consoles (Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation) provide safety features and parental controls which provide protection for your children in the online gaming world, while also offering peace of mind for a parent. Therefore, it is imperative that parents familiarize themselves with the safety features and parental controls offered by all the major gaming consoles and once the appropriate controls are in place, keep the password for the parental controls private and do not share it with your children. Be mindful that there are a multitude of sites which teach children how to disable parental controls. Another suggestion from the experts is for the parents to play the game(s) that their children are playing online and to teach their children about voice masking technology. “Voice masking technology - while masking can be a safety feature, predators can use it to pretend to be someone they are not.”

Some basic tips from the experts regarding parental controls:

· Filter mature language

· “Determine if your child is mature enough for voice chat, if not, turn it off. Be aware your child may hear profanity or other unwanted language via voice chats features.”

· Credit card information- be sure to require your parent PIN on purchases and to restrict access to games, including free games in the online store via your PIN.

· Other Players- You can limit the players to only those you have approved. Please remember that child predators will be patient in gathering information on children to assess their vulnerability for grooming.

· Limit access to web browsing, as unrestricted browsing allows for your child to access everything on the internet both good and bad.

· “Consider disallowing the webcam use while gaming - instead, consider use of an avatar, especially for under 14+ gamers.”

Additional online gaming tips from the experts:

· “Beware of strangers. While there are both safe and dangerous strangers, they are still strangers. We advise that younger gamers, under the age of 15, only play with people they know in person and that are parent-approved.”

· “Use suitable screen names (Gamertags) - don't use your actual name.”

· Teach your child to never give out personal information to another player.

· “Report abusive or inappropriate behavior in the reporting area of the game.”

Online gaming can be loads of fun but in order to truly keep your children safe, you as the parent need to take an active role in their online gaming habits and abilities. Please share this with other parents whose children are engaged in online gaming. In a communal effort we can help limit the capacity of online predators gaining any degree of access to our children.

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