| Games

Online gaming versus security risks

| 23 Dec 2022

Online gaming is fun and when played safely can contribute to a child’s development and socialisation. However, there is also a multitude of dangers hiding within the shadows that parents need to be cognisant of.

Online gaming continues to grow in popularity. Six-in-ten children aged 3-17 played games online last year. This increased to three-quarters of 12-17s, making it one of their most popular pastimes for children. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) is the most popular game right now, followed by MMO action role-playing game Lost Ark.

Online gaming is fun, and when played healthily can contribute to a child’s development and socialisation. However, there are also a multitude of dangers hiding within the shadows that parents need to be cognisant of.

Where your child gets the game from is important. Ensure they only download games from official stores. Others may tempt them with crazy discounts or fake cracks. However, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. Pirate versions often lead to children downloading malware that will try to steal their information or credit card details.

Unfortunately, keyloggers and other malware continues to be rife in gaming environments. Whilst children may be tempted to turn off their security software to try to boost their device’s performance, this leaves them open to infection. The good news is that whilst some security products used to affect speed and functionality of certain games, many now come with a gamer mode that doesn’t cause interruptions or lag

As well as ensuring that security products are set up optimally, encourage children to use strong passwords that are different on each platform. Sadly, many continue to choose poor or predictable combinations. Remind children that as they are used as the doorway to accounts that hold sensitive data, passwords need to be robust. Educate them how to create a strong one that they change on a regular basis.

Gaming is a highly sociable activity. Whilst children used to play them with their friends in the same room, now it has firmly moved online. During the pandemic, this was great as meant children could maintain social interactions with their friends. However, with the games themselves commonly open to all, more than a third (36%) of 8–17-year old’s have played games with people they don’t know. 

Unfortunately, not everyone online is who they say they are. Those with nefarious intent often use personas to hide real identities. It is, therefore, important to remind children of the dangers of divulging personal information and what to do if they come across offensive language or bullying. Whilst two thirds (66%) of children aged 12-15 say they know how to block people who upset them when playing games, only four-in-ten (41%) have actually done so.

Don’t get me wrong. Gaming is a fun and sociable way for children to spend time, encouraging teamwork and developing important interpersonal skills. It can bring children into contact with others from around the world with different cultures and outlooks, enriching their world view. However, it is important to know what the dangers are. 

Blogs such as this, ESET’s WeLiveSecurity and the industry-backed Internet Matters can offer great advice and support for parents who don’t know their Fortnite from their Minecraft. Visit Digital Matters - a free online educational platform created to help educate children about online safety through a variety of interactive materials.

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