Video games are popular, so popular that the global industry is expected to grow from an estimated $1.7 trillion in 2015 to $2.2 trillion in 2021. And, if the money isn’t proof enough, just take a look at Cisco’s projection that online gaming will make up 15 exabytes — one exabyte is one billion gigabytes — of consumer Internet traffic.
With that many people playing online video games — whether computer or console, single-player or multiplayer, and even educational vs more mature ones — it’s easy for some, especially naive children, to get wrapped up in some unhealthy habits. This June, our Kinetic by Windstream team is celebrating National Internet Safety Month by giving you the tips and tools you need to protect you and your family.
Today, we’re exploring a topic that may be on many of your minds: how to stay safe while gaming online.
1. Ensure the games are age appropriate.
All games, like movies, have an ESRB rating, such as “E” for everyone, “T” for teen, “M” for “mature” or ages 17 and up, and “A” for adult. You can find these ratings on the front of a boxed game with content descriptors, explaining why it was rated as such, on the back. These can also be found in descriptions for many online games. If you can’t find the rating or content descriptors and need to know whether a certain online game is safe for your child, you can also search for the game on ESRB.org or on the ESRB Rating Search App.
2. Keep a low profile.
Not all gamers will be the same age, and some may not have good intentions. One of the best online gaming tips is to have your children understand the importance of not sharing too much information with strangers. Have your children use avatars instead of uploading their pictures to their gaming profiles. Ensure they don’t give out hints or clues as to their personal information, particularly a home address. “Swatting” — making prank calls that lead emergency services to dispatch armed authorities to a location, usually a home, with the belief that a crime has just occurred or is in progress — is still alive and well, especially with gamers who livestream.
3. Beware of downloads.
Whether you’re downloading “cheats,” unofficial copies of games or even free trials of a portion of a game, be wary of downloads. Downloads could contain malware or viruses, especially if you aren’t getting them from a reputable source, so update your gaming systems, along with any security software. If you’re still concerned about your children’s safety in terms of online game downloads, you could also set restrictions on apps that they download on a mobile device. If they’re playing online games on a console or a computer, you could restrict usage to times when a parent can supervise and place the device in a central location in your home for easier oversight.
4. Take caution when purchasing items.
Again, make sure that your children are purchasing from a reputable source. If you’re saving your credit card information to the game console, create a strong password linked to the account. If you don’t want your children to buy things willy-nilly, don’t attach a card to the account.
5. Set some rules.
Establish some rules for your children to play online. The rules can vary depending on your concerns about online gaming safety. As an example, if you’re worried about voice chats — when your children may hear expletives or other foul or lewd language — have them disable that feature.
Online gaming is also a good outlet for children to understand Internet etiquette. Teach them about cyberbullying, how to spot it and what to do if they are being bullied online. Have them be respectful online to others as well.
And, don’t forget about house rules, such as when they can play video games and for how long.
6. If you’re upgrading or simply getting rid of a system, dispose safely.
If your family is foregoing one game console for another or switching out computers, wipe the old ones clean of any personal and/or financial information that may be cached. Here’s how you can reset your Xbox, PS4 and Nintendo Switch to factory settings.
Use these safety tips as your children venture into online gaming, and don’t be afraid to pick up the joysticks and play along! It’ll give you more insight on the types of games your kids are playing — and may help improve family wellness.
And, remember that your online gaming is only as good as your Internet connection. Learn how Kinetic Gig — with its lightning-fast speeds and low ping rates — can help you beat that new game in no time!