The quantity and variety of online video games available to our children can be overwhelming. Every kid seems to know the perfect time to interrupt and ask for help downloading the latest “it” game. Or, worse, they install the game without our knowledge, leaving us unaware of what they’re playing or who they may be playing with online.
Identity and Safety Risks
Not knowing how to navigate the social risks associated with online gaming could easily lead to child identity theft. More frightening, your child could be contacted by an adult posing as a child who solicits personal information or tries arranging a place for them to meet. Online attackers are constantly developing new malware strains (e.g., computer viruses, trojan horses, worms, etc.) that steal credentials and other valuable personally identifiable information (PII).
The threat of child identity theft is real. Javelin Strategy & Research found 1 out of every 50 children are affected by child identity fraud, which costs U.S. families nearly $1 billion each year. Children who use social and gaming platforms are at the greatest risks of their personal information being exposed thanks to the unsupervised hours they spend online. Javelin also found that Twitch (31%), Twitter (30%), and Facebook (25%) are at the highest risk. In 2021, Twitch and gaming giant Electronic Arts experienced massive data breaches. While the main data exposed in the breach was source code and proprietary information, the vulnerability of gaming giants sounded alarms for all gamers.
Do you know what online games your child, tween, or teen plays, and whether they’re interacting or chatting with strangers on public servers? Protect yourself and your children by taking control of your security and having those difficult conversations.
10 Tips to Keep Your Child Safe While Playing Games Online
- Avoid executable (.exe) add-ons that promise to add extra functionality to a game, as these may be infected with keylogging software or viruses designed to steal your login credentials.
- Gamemasters (GMs) of multiplayer role-playing games do not need, and will never ask for, your login information.
- Create a strong password that includes upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols that only you could know.
- Be skeptical of third-party applications, especially knock-off games; do your research before you download.
- Be wary of links and attachments delivered to you via email or instant message that say your password has been compromised; they could be phishing attempts that direct you to imposter sites! Research by contacting the site through established channels.
- Before purchasing a game online, make sure the URL, or web address, begins with “https” (the “s” indicates it’s a secure site). Also, use a credit card instead of a debit card so you’re not providing direct access to your bank account.
- Like a toothbrush, don’t share your computer, because a less savvy person could easily and unknowingly download malware.
- Keep your anti-virus software updated, be aware of mobile app privacy policies, and investigate the parental controls available for games and gaming systems. The Federal Trade Commission suggests familiarizing yourself with these controls early, as each system has a unique variety of settings to promote safety.
- Review your credit card and banking statements on a monthly basis for signs of unusual or fraudulent charges so you can act quickly against further theft.
- Stay informed of the latest hacker methods by reading educational materials. Frequently remind children of the risks associated with oversharing online; let them know that you’re not trying to be a “downer,” but have their best interests at heart.