Tips for Safe Online Gaming Part 1

Posted on May 22, 2014

Parents sometimes worry about their children’s safety when playing video games: from inappropriate content to griefing, cyberbullying and online abuse, gaming seems a minefield for child safety. It may be tempting to throw your hands in the air and the console in the bin, but there are things that you can do to help create boundaries and build a positive gaming experience for younger players.

1. Couch coop whenever possible

Online multiplayer is more popular than ever, but it usually costs money and opens a minefield of random interactions that it may be hard to regulate. Splitscreen cooperative modes (or ‘couch co-op’) are experiencing a resurgence in modern games, and reduce the risk of multiplayer gaming. In-game relationships can be mediated with face-to-face interactions which can prevent a lot of toxicity, conflict and misunderstanding, and supervision is also much more practical. Use the legend below (on the back of most game covers) to figure out how it can be played: here, 1-2 players can play coop on the Xbox 360 (green), and 2-4 can play cooperatively on Xbox LIVE (online – orange).


The key for multiplayer gameplay options

2. Make online friends from real life 

It is usually good practice for gamers to avoid building large lists of friends based purely on online relationships. These relationships are much more difficult to manage, and you often don’t know the identity of the person behind their username or gamer tag. Online anonymity can lead people to behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t with people that they have real-life interactions with. Periodically reviewing your child’s friend list with them may give you a better idea of the baseline for their gaming relationships.

 3. Avoid hypercompetitive games

Depending on the age and stage of gamers as well as their personalities, different games may have different appeal and associated risks. Hypercompetitive games such as modern shooters (Call of Duty, Battlefield) may require more maturity to deal with the complex interactions that occur. Differences exist even within genres: for example, Battlefield has more team-based gameplay focussed on objectives, whereas Call of Duty encourages ‘lone wolf’ gameplay, which may not suit all players. Look for games that emphasise cooperative gameplay in splitscreen or online: for example, Borderlands (and Borderlands 2).

Yeah... no.

Yeah… no.

4. Minimise information sharing

As with all online behaviour, it is very important to minimise the sharing of personal information. Ensure your child uses an alias rather than their real name; be careful with sharing photos and video; create a fictional birthday and place of residence, and impress upon them the importance of never revealing real information. Assume that any information uploaded to the Web is public (even if on a social media or forum website).

Do you have any further ideas? Comment below!

(To be continued…)

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