As long as there’s a ‘safety net’, online gaming can be good fun. Game on!
At some point, your kids is likely to be introduced to digital gaming — that’s if they haven’t already. If online games featured heavily on the Christmas list or your teen is dreaming of a career in digital gaming, please be assured that it isn’t all bad news. In fact, gaming can be a positive experience, when properly managed. Research has shown that games can have a positive impact on mental health – aiding the management of anxiety and facilitating important social interaction. Considering the year that has just been, these benefits are exactly what we want for our kids. We asked McAfee’s Cybermum and Cyber Safety Ambassador Alex Merton- McCann for some advice when it comes to online play.
WHAT’S THE DANGER IN DIGITAL?
The ‘always-on’ and connected nature of the online world does mean there is some risk and it’s essential that parents educate themselves about what these risks look like so they can best help their kids navigate around them. Whether it’s cyberbullying, inappropriate content, excessive screen time or scams, these dangers can impact children, no matter how or where they are spending time online. And digital gaming is no exception. Regardless of age, parents should be starting a conversation about cyber safety the moment a child picks up a device and starts playing digital and online games. By setting expectations around what is an appropriate amount of screen time from day dot, you can ensure your children are on the same page which makes the ongoing conversations around cyber safety so much easier. This is also a perfect opportunity to openly discuss the potentially negative impacts of excessive screen time on your kids’ physical, mental or social health, which will help educate your child about why you are doing them a favour in limiting their screen time.
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY’RE IN THEIR ONLINE WORLD?
Join them! It will be far easier to spot when your child is at risk when playing games if you know how their favourite games work, who they can and can’t talk to while playing, and what personal information is public on their online gaming profile. For extra peace of mind, consider parental control software. When used age-appropriately, parental control software can be a great cyber safety support tool, keeping parents informed about exactly how much time their children are spending on their devices, and what they are using their devices for.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF GAMING ADDICTION?
The World Health Organisation officially recognises video game addiction or ‘gaming disorder’ as a pattern of behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming. In short, it’s when gaming takes over all other interests and activities. I’m often asked by parents about how to know when your child’s gaming becomes problematic. My advice for parents is to keep an eye out and trust your gut. You will very quickly notice when gaming is starting to negatively impact their lives and interfere with school, time spent with family or friends, or even eating and sleeping. And when that happens, don’t hesitate to support your child in getting help.
UM, TRY TELLING A TEEN WHAT TO DO
We get it! Teens may be more difficult to control when it comes to screen time. They’ll start to question or rebel from your rules around ‘no screens in the bedroom’. When socialising morphs from the school yard to facetime and social media, it becomes more vital for you as a parent to model good digi behaviour. For example: If the rule is no electronics after 8pm for your pre-teen or teen, apply it to your whole family too. Be sure to explain the reasoning for your rules and be prepared to negotiate and let them take responsibility as well.