Sign up to our newsletter
Have you spoken to your kids lately? We bet if you have, then you are all too familiar with what they tend to talk about – video games. Cheats, mods or blocks … you’ve certainly heard it all before but needless to say, you’re still clueless as to what any of that means.
Take for instance Minecraft, a really popular game that allows you to enjoy a range of activities, including building castles, exploring unknown areas and digging your own catacombs. How much about it do you really know?
Would it surprise you to learn that you can do all of the above without a specific goal or ending or that it has unexpectedly become the third most sold game in history (70 million copies sold on all platforms)? It’s extremely popular and the list of its registered users is now 100 million strong, most of them teenagers and youngsters between the ages of 15 and 21 (43.7%).
While all of this is fascinating, there are other, more important things to be conscious of, especially as a parent. For example, Minecraft is one of many games that can be played live – i.e. online. Any gaming environment like this, which is made of a huge number of anonymous players, comes with risks.
For example, it is really easy for cybercriminals or even sexual predators to be among the innocent gamers, who are simply there to have fun. Acting as your kid’s peer, these lawless individuals can obtain sensitive personal information, including passwords and credit card data, as well manipulate them into doing things they wouldn’t and shouldn’t normally do.
Teenagers, by virtue of being more independent, may not know what’s happening, nor actively seek to discuss any concerns they may have with their mom or dad. But this should however not stop you from actively helping them to avoid the pitfalls before it spirals out of control. Here’s what you can do.
First, make sure they only use secure devices for gaming, which comes with a security solution installed, updated and up and running. This applies not only for the desktop computer at home or their favorite laptop, but also for their smartphones and other mobile devices.
Secondly, explain to them that playing cheat or cracked version of a game is asking for trouble. Though many of them might be cheaper or even free, they most likely come laden with malware. Look at ways in which you can help them buy an original game instead, giving them part of the money back if they offer to pay for a portion of it themselves. A few extra dollars/pounds/euros is worth the security that comes with an authentic, uncompromised game.
Thirdly, if you want to be sure that the communication channels stay open, even with your teenage child, consider investing in parental control solutions. There is so much more to these tools than imposing seemingly draconian limits on your kids (as teenagers perhaps see it). Such an app provides your youngsters with a voice, which treats them like an adult. Encourage them to ask for permissions to play certain games, the details of which you can then negotiate. It also makes it easy to block websites, which might be risky or display inappropriate content.
Finally, last but not least, keep talking to them. Make it clear that not everybody they meet online – especially in online games and fora – is their friend. If possible, kids should play only with people they know in the real world. If not, teach them to be very careful about whom they talk to and watch for red flags – such as offers for the sharing of personal information and extending relationships outside of the game.
Author Ondrej Kubovič, ESET