Hackers And Predators: What You Need to Know if Your Kid Is a Gamer
Veteran gamers will tell you — online multiplayer games can be a brutal minefield. Sadly, your children may face a risk of cybercrime, theft, bullying, or even abuse online.
Without further ado, we’re going to uncover the major risks associated with online gaming and how you can protect your kids.
Monitor Child Now
The dark side of online gaming for kids: 5 main threats
The inherent risks of online gaming can be roughly split into three categories: in-game threat actors, financial loss, and psychological damage. Let’s explore…
In 2022, Anti-Defamation League reported that 60% of players aged 13-17 have experienced harassment in online multiplayer games. The rate even increases to 83% as the player reaches 18 years of age.
As the research shows, unfortunately, your child is more likely to encounter a cyberbully than not. For this reason, you have to educate your child on how to spot and react to bullying online and develop an open, trustworthy relationship with your child.
2. Data Theft
Children are so trusting and friendly — it’s what we love about them, but it’s also what lures hackers. The usual target is an over-eager kid who just wants to progress further in their game.
With an email or a fraudulent link, a hacker can steal data or install malware on your child’s device. Protect your family’s internet connection with VPN software, a basic measure that will ensure your private data isn’t leaked.
3. Sexual Predators
In an ideal world, we’d never need to mention this, but it bears repeating. There are crooks hanging around in multiplayer games who hide behind their anonymous avatars. Unfortunately, some of these offenders will be sexual predators.
Your kid is probably already a pro at “stranger danger,” but many young ones forget these lessons when they play online. Remind them that they can’t trust anyone online, no matter how friendly this person seems to be. Teach your kids to keep their personal information to themselves and not agree to any offers that lead the communication outside the game.
4. Excessive in-Game Purchases
Marketers and game developers are working hand-in-hand to create profitable, addictive gaming experiences. Kids are easily persuaded — great when you want them to finish their veggies, but dangerous when influenced by advertising schemes.
A 2018 report by Ofcom found that almost one in five kids accidentally made purchases in-game. Rectifying this issue is as simple as removing your payment data from your children’s app stores or enabling child locks.
5. Identity Theft
Should a hacker gain access to you or your kid’s private data, identity theft is an imminent problem. Often through a set of “harmless” questions, scammers don’t need much more than an email or name from your child.
The risks of identity theft include:
- Financial loss through stolen payment data;
- Extortion via blackmail or account takeover;
- Further hacking of linked accounts (think Google or Facebook);
- “Swatting” and other violent pranks.
Mitigate this crime entirely by teaching your children good cyber hygiene and data privacy practices. Make it a habit to remind them that anything that reveals their identity should be kept secret.
6. Too Much Game-Time
It’s not pedantic to worry about the risks of gaming addiction — the WHO even classes it as a disorder. Addiction can cause a ripple effect that damages your children’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Severe gaming addiction is a downward spiral that can cause:
- Anger management issues;
- Unhealthy diet and sleep patterns;
- Loss of interest in anything other than gaming;
- Suffering social life.
If you or your child is showing signs of an online gaming disorder, contact an addiction hotline.
7. Inappropriate or Upsetting Content
The internet has always been known as a nefarious place at times, so it’s fair to assume your children may eventually discover inappropriate content. In fact, a 2022 report found that by the age of 13, 58% of children accidentally discover pornography.
The sharing of adult content, malicious websites, and fake news is only exacerbated by online gaming. Unfortunately, avoiding this issue is nearly impossible. As a parent, installing a “Safe Search” works wonders for most cases.
The Future of Online Gaming for Kids
Online gaming presents a number of risks to every player, but most of all, innocent kids. Ironically, the very same technology that is instigating new cyberthreats is the tool that will help to protect your children online. By that, we mean AI (artificial intelligence). AI and machine learning developments will become the new administrators and moderators in online games.
Some primitive AI tools are already able to red-flag offensive language or phrases, yet the majority of cyberbullying is verbal and hidden under layers of context. In the nearest future, AI will learn more about the complex schemes of online predators and contextualize their violent language and behavior. In simple words, the new tools will help parents in their battle to protect their children from cyberbullying and cybercrime. As a parent, you have to stay alert of the possible online threats for kids and learn how to diminish them as much as possible.