Computer Gaming and Internet Safety
In recent years computer gaming has changed. It’s gone from a one-to-one gaming experience (you against the computer or video game) to a multiple player experience (you against player’s world-wide). What used to be a solitary and isolating activity is now a community and social activity. Parents should be aware that their children can communicate with strangers while playing online games. Most online games offer players the option of communication through a built in chat feature and/or through a live voice chat.
While predators are somewhat rare in the intense activity of a challenging game, as more inexperienced gamers and younger gamers play, it is expected that predators will become a bigger problem.
The best way to avoid online predators is to make sure your children know they can come to you if things go wrong without worrying that you will over-react and throw the game console out with the bathwater. Make sure that your child understands the real risks of meeting Internet stranger’s offline. Understand that an online stranger may not be a stranger to your child, if they have engaged consistent online gaming for any amount of time. Remember that this “stranger” may have been gaming with your child for weeks, which will tend to leave the child comfortable and unguarded.
Be aware that engaging in voice chat with strangers might inadvertently cause children to let their guard down more easily. After all, what’s the difference between chatting on a computer microphone wearing a headset and on a telephone receiver? To a child or teenager, there is little difference.
But from an Internet safety and privacy viewpoint, there are serious differences. A telephone number can often lead to a name and address. All you need to do is visit an Internet switchboard and put in the telephone number. A reverse search will often disclose the name and address linked to the telephone number. A quick visit to Mapquest then gives you a map to the gamer’s door. In addition, once armed with the telephone number, anyone can reach out whenever they choose to communicate with the gamer.
It’s all about stranger danger. Teach your child to never meet Internet stranger’s offline and to protect their personal information such as their name, age, sex, and telephone numbers. Teach your child to recognize that no matter how long they “know” a person on the Internet, they still are a stranger in real life.