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Parent of an Online Gamer? How to Ensure Your Child’s Safety

As the parent of an online gamer, you probably have many concerns about your child’s safety in cyberspace. You may have read headlines about young people who were harmed by someone they met in a game. From invasions of privacy to predators, bullies, and scams that can clean out your bank account, here are four dangers your child may face while gaming online and how to avoid them.

Protect Their Privacy

The social element of online gaming makes it easy for young gamers to give out too much personal information. Instruct your child to never use a screen name that reveals his real name, age, or location. Webcams can give away a user’s location, and hackers can gain access even when the camera is not in use. Discourage your child from using cameras or microphones while gaming and consider covering up webcams with electrical tape or cardboard.

Push Back Predators

Many predators use online games as a virtual playground to make friends with young people, often pretending to be children or teens themselves. Teach your child that the people she meets online are not always who they claim to be. If you allow your child to meet in person with an online friend, schedule the meeting in a public place with an adult chaperone.

Ban the Bullies

Strangers are no longer the most concerning online danger for children and teens. The biggest threat to your young gamer may come from kids his own age, including classmates at school. More than a quarter of students report being cyberbullied at some point in their lives. Teach your child how to recognize cyberbullying and to report it to you or another adult. Instruct him to collect evidence, such as screen shots and messages, to send to the moderators of the game or to law enforcement if necessary.

Watch Your Wallet

Online gaming can be a money sink, both from in-game charges and scammers lurking within the gaming community. To prevent your child from falling prey to scams, do not give her access to any credit card or bank account numbers. To avoid spending hundreds of dollars on virtual goods, use a pre-paid debit card for game-related charges like subscriptions and fees.

If you are concerned that your child may have been victimized online, contact local law enforcement or your internet service provider immediately. They have resources to track down predators and bullies or to get your money back from a scam.

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