By Daniel Sherwin, Great Falls MT
Video games get a bad rap, but they actually offer a ton of benefits for kids when used appropriately. They promote hand-eye coordination, help kids enhance problem-solving skills, and let them build their imagination and explore new worlds.
However, there are some safety risks you should keep in mind while your child plays, especially online. Here are some guidelines for making sure your little one stays safe while they game.
You should make sure your children aren’t gaming for hours and hours at a time. For starters, this behavior effectively precludes exercise. Kids need about an hour of physical activity a day to stay healthy, and they’re not going to get that if they spend all day gaming. In addition, there’s the fact that most people don’t have an especially ergonomic game set up. Whether they’re playing on a console or computer, doing small repetitive movements while hunched over for hours on end is no good for the muscular and skeletal systems.
Encourage them to take breaks and get outside, and invest in tools to keep them healthier while they play.
For example, an elevated gaming monitor can help maintain good posture while they play. A comfortable, supportive, and interactive gaming chair can also reduce injuries from bad gaming posture. Find online discounts to keep costs low while upgrading, and remember these are no substitute for healthy limits and exercise.
If your kids are playing online, it’s important that they know all about digital security. Teach them to never give out personal information, even to people they’ve gotten to know online. Let them know it’s okay for them to make friends online, but they should keep you in the loop and never make plans to meet in person without your explicit knowledge and consent.
There are steps you need to take to keep your digital security strong while your kids game online, too. For example, if you upgrade your wifi to a stronger connection to keep up with a multiplayer game like Fortnite, take that opportunity to make sure you use a strong, random password for your network. If your password is too simple, it can be easy to guess it — meaning anyone who goes by your house could potentially hop onto your network and access your devices.
Finally, be wary of games with online voice chat, and only let your child use these if you’re totally confident about who’s on the other end, or if you trust your child to handle whatever they might hear.
Remember, it’s perfectly conceivable your child might be in a voice chat with much older children and even adults.
Even if you set aside concerns about predatory behavior, there’s still the simple question of the kind of themes and language your child might hear on these chats. If you wouldn’t let them join random conversations at a restaurant, you shouldn’t let them go on voice chat unsupervised.
The simplest move is to turn voice chat off through parental controls. In the rare case that it’s absolutely vital for gameplay, have voice chat broadcast through speakers rather than headphones. This way you can intervene if your child is exposed to something above their age level.
Your kids can have a fun and safe gaming experience online, but you should take steps to protect them. Anything done in excess or without forethought can be risky for kids. Set limits, establish rules, and, above all, monitor usage until you’re confident your child can manage on their own.
Visit E-City Beat for news and articles in Great Falls and beyond.
Photo Credit: Pexels