Kids Safety 101
Boy playing a video game and yelling

Are Video Games a Threat to Your Child’s Well-Being?

Videos games are hardly anything new. In fact, people who grew up on video games are now old enough to raise their own generation of little gamers. However, games have changed a lot over the past thirty years.

The potentially negative effects of gaming on your child’s health and safety shouldn’t be ignored. Before you relent and buy them the gaming system they’ve been begging for, there are a few things you should know.

Manage Screen Time

As anyone who has played a video game can tell you, they are addictive. It’s all too easy to lose yourself in a virtual world for hours on end. If your child is spending more time gaming than sleeping or doing school work, that’s an obvious–and urgent–problem. However, for most parents and guardians, finding the right amount of screen time is about balance and compromise.

One effective way to manage screen time is to make it into a reward that kids earn. For example, doing chores around the house might earn them 30 minutes of Fortnite.

Consider Parental Controls

Limiting what your child can access online is essential. The internet–and the gaming world in particular–can be violent, profane, and crass. Blocking certain aspects of games, such as the chat function, can help. In addition, you can also filter adult language in most games that support player-to-player communication.

Parental controls can also throttle the amount of time kids can play a particular game. However, be warned that these controls aren’t that difficult for tech-savvy kids to get around.

Disable In-App Purchases

This is a must for all parents and guardians. Disable purchases across all the devices your child uses to play games and download apps. The vast majority of games, even those labeled as “free,” contain stores where kids can spend real money to buy digital items.

These aren’t necessarily micro-transactions, either! In Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, for example, some purchases of in-game items and tokens are $99 and up.

Research Games Before You Buy

If you’re not a gamer yourself, you might not be familiar with the games that kids are into at any given time. What’s Roblox? Weren’t they playing Minecraft last week?

Although video games might not be interesting to you, take the time to research the titles that your kids want to play. It’ll also give you a framework to understand what they’re talking about when they describe their favorite games.

Be Aware of Online Interactions

Most modern games involve some kind of player interaction. Most often, it’s a chat window. Others have voice chat built in, or else players may use a program like Discord to talk to each other.

Talk to your kids about safety and security–and keep the conversation going. This isn’t a one-time warning to stay away from strangers. It’s increasingly common to make friends online while playing games, so ensure that you know who your child is talking to while they play. You should also teach them to keep identifying information such as their real name and location private.

Erin Long