As a parent at the end of the day, all we ever really want is to protect our children. In today’s society and within esports that means protecting them while they’re playing video games online.
How to safely game with strangers? Since most online gaming is done with strangers it’s important you learn how to protect yourself. As long as you play with people you know, don’t give away personal information, take advantage of the block feature, and use common sense you should be safe.
Esports and online gaming will forever be associated together. Young gamers love having the ability to compete against the best from all over the world in the comforts of their own home. While esports organizers like the ease online gaming give them to plan tournaments. Even with all the good aspects; dangerous people are using new tricks every day to harm you or your loved ones through online gaming. Thankfully there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself.
What is Online Gaming?
I’m not going to assume that everyone reading this blog post understands what online gaming is.
When my brother and I were growing up, we never had access to online gaming. We merely played with our friends on the same console.
“Online gaming” is where you compete against other players from anywhere in the world while playing the same video game.
Video games today are almost played exclusively online.
PCs and video game consoles are making it easier than ever to play online with other people.
Some of these stats about gamers playing online really shocked me.
- 34% of 3-4 years olds are currently playing video games on a tablet device (iPhone or iPad.)
- Nearly ⅓ of children play online video games with people they have never met in person
Games like League of Legends, Overwatch, and Call of Duty rely very heavily on online gaming.
You can chat with other gamers, build teams, or improve your ranking on the leaderboard through online gaming.
Online gaming made it so players can compete with their friends or loved ones from anywhere in the world. It creates a sense of community for people who share a universal love for a video game.
While online gaming is a fun and exciting component of esports, it has unfortunately been used to cause a lot of harm.
Dangers of Online Gaming
Growing up our parents had peace of mind as long as we were in our home. They felt like we were safe and secure under their roof.
Today there’s danger out in the real world and in our homes while merely playing a video game.
There’s a variety of unique risks associated with online gaming.
One of the primary risks with online gaming is people pretending to be something they’re not.
Anyone can create a profile so they can play video games online. They’ve made it easier than ever for people to gain access to the millions of gamers playing all over the world.
Unfortunately, thanks to this feature people are able to create fake profiles and accounts pretending to be something they are not.
For instance, people can fake their age and their gender when creating an online presence.
People use this to gain people’s trust and have an influence on their lives.
Some people are even resorting to using voice changers to make them sound like somebody they are not.
Don’t be Naive
You need to be cautious when gaming with strangers if they’re being “too nice.”
By “too nice” I mean buying you things within the game, giving you compliments, or helping you to get better at the game.
These may sound like innocent activities that would be appreciated, but when it comes from a complete stranger, please use caution.
They might be trying to be overly friendly to get your guard down and create a sense of connection.
Some people use this online influence to get unsuspecting people to give away personal information or do inappropriate things.
By getting personal information, people can hack accounts and cause significant damage by either stealing money or your identity.
CHECK IT OUT
Hackers were convincing kids to hand over their parents bank account info on the popular video game Fortnite.
People can be very manipulative and get very sensitive information from people.
I’m not 100% comfortable with writing about some of this topic, but we want you educated and protected while gaming.
Innocent people have been exploited into sending pictures or talking via video chat with strangers.
Younger people might not even be aware of the dangers when they are video chatting with someone.
There are so many fake profiles and people in online gaming; it can be a little overwhelming figuring out who is actually real. This is why you should always use caution when competing against people you don’t know.
A common problem people run into through online gaming is bullying.
Bullying is such an awful thing that used to only happen in person but is now slowly taking over online gaming as well.
Types of online bullying can include mocking a person’s gender, intelligence, or nationality.
For some reason, people feel empowered on the internet. They feel like they can say whatever they want without it causing any harm. This couldn’t be further from the truth though because the words still hurt.
Online gaming relies so much on communication through headsets and chat rooms; this is where most of the bullying takes place.
Bullies might even expose your child to foul language; you didn’t want them to hear.
Bullying can also present itself in the form of cheating.
Whether it’s cheating to get ahead or by stealing online items. Yes, it is very possible to take someone’s prized possessions within the world of video games.
Sometimes you might hear the term ‘griefing’ to describe online bullying.
Bullies will use words to distract unsuspecting gamers into playing worse so they can beat them and further their own career.
DID YOU KNOW?
Another term you’ll commonly hear for this type of bullying is ‘trolling’.
Those are the two most significant ways that other people can cause you harm through an online game.
Watch out for people that pretend to be something they’re not and for players that are bullies and cheat.
Spend, Spend, and Spend
In-app purchases are weirdly more of a self-inflicted danger than one caused by somebody else.
When I was playing video games, on a Nintendo 64 or original Xbox the only way to get the best items or weapons was by merely playing the game.
Playing the game and getting better were the keys to unlocking the best items within a video game.
For gamers today they are encouraged to get ahead by spending actual money.
Game developers made it possible to spend money within video games to get the best items to further your gaming career.
While that’s fine if you would like to spend your money on items in the video game you love. The danger comes when people start spending more money than they want or should.
There’s an addictive quality to buying more and more of the latest items. Eventually, you’ve created a massive online bill that you never expected.
It’s easy to get distracted or lose track of exactly how much money you spend until you pull yourself out of the game and look at your finances.
This is a problem for both gamers and parents of players.
All of these problems within online gaming aren’t necessarily going anywhere within the next few years.
Unfortunately, there’s always going to be aspects of false profiles, bullying, and in-app purchases.
The best thing you can do is to be educated and know these problems are actually there. Try putting some of these plans in place to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of.
Now that we have a better idea of the dangers that exist within online gaming let’s look at the best ways to protect yourself.
Thankfully there really are a lot of easy ways to make sure you’re not exposed to negative things while playing online.
Some of these tips may or may not be helpful to you depending on your reason for reading this blog.
Many of these tips are more directed towards parents of gamers than the actual players themselves.
Try to Learn
Titania Jordan is a well known digital safety expert. She had this to say to parents of online gamers.
“You don’t need to know how to pass every level, but know the risks.”
All she’s trying to say is to have a basic understanding of what your child is getting into.
Know the aspects of the game and what can be accomplished while playing online. Does the game allow them to share pictures, chat, or have content that’s inappropriate for your child?
All these questions can be easily answered by taking 30 minutes to an hour and diving deep into your child’s favorite video game.
The Entertainment Software Association had some great data about parents and their gaming children.
- 70% of parents say video games are a positive part of a child’s life
- 67% of parents play video games at least once a week with their child
- 94% of parents say they pay attention to the game their child is playing
I was encouraged by these numbers. These numbers show a very healthy understanding and connection between parents and their gaming kids.
Common Area Playing
An easy first step to improving your child’s safety in online gaming is by having them only play in common family rooms.
You are likely to get a lot of pushback, but by merely removing the video game system from your child’s bedroom you are significantly improving their chance for safety.
When the video game system is in a shared space, it’s easier for you to monitor and track to make sure nothing shady is going on.
Video game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation all come with two unique features to put parents minds at ease.
DID YOU KNOW?
The PlayStation 4 is the best selling console of the current gaming generation.
The first is giving parents the ability to set a time limit for their child’s game time. Not only can you control how long they play but you can also set what times during the day they can play.
For instance, if you don’t want your child staying up late into the night playing video games, you can make the console stop working between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The other parental control you can set on video game consoles is blocking any video game you deem inappropriate.
For parents of young gamers, it can be beneficial to look at the age rating on video games that you are purchasing for your children.
Every parent is different in what they allow their children to see and play. It’s still best to understand the content within a video game.
The ESRB ( Entertainment Software Rating Board) was created to monitor the content within video games. So for all cautious parents feel free to use the rating given by the ESRB on most major video games.
You can make it so your child can’t play any game rated ‘M’ for mature gamers only. Mature rated games include Call of Duty and Halo.
As a parent, I really appreciate the lengths these gaming companies are taking to protect my child. When my own kids are old enough for a video game console, I will absolutely be taking advantage of these parental controls.
On the flip side, I can think back to when I was a kid and teenager and see how frustrating these parental controls would be.
We are not a parenting website and don’t even pretend to be. From the research I’ve done the best advice I’ve seen when helping your child with online gaming is communication.
Help them understand where you’re coming from and clearly understand their point of view. There’s a give and take to figuring out a routine that works best for you and your family.
Playing with Friends
This next tip is going to be a little difficult to enforce when building your esports career.
It’s really highly encouraged that you only play online video games with people that you know personally. Friends or family that you know outside of the video game and you have met in person.
That is indeed the safest way to protect yourself against shady people with fake profiles.
For aspiring esports gamers, this can be difficult. To build your reputation, you’ll often have to play against people you don’t know.
CHECK IT OUT
Major League Gaming is a great resource for high quailty online tournaments.
Your best option is to use caution and be smart when dealing with these other gamers. Only play with strangers online during official regulated esports tournaments.
Online gaming highly encourages social interaction. Whether it’s chatting with your teammates or trash-talking against opponents.
Even though the chatting feature can be fun and engaging it can also lead to bullying.
If you would rather not deal with the dangers of chatting feel free to adjust the privacy settings on the video game. Most video games include a privacy setting that allows you to control whether you want to interact with people via voice chat or chatting.
If you decide to try playing with a stranger but are getting weird vibes don’t feel bad about blocking them! The blocking feature was designed to keep you safe.
Game developers want you to have a good time while playing their product. They know you might stop playing their game if you have a negative experience.
This is why they made it possible for you to block negative players so you can enjoy your experience by playing with people you like.
Before starting a new game take a few minutes to understand the blocking and reporting feature so you can avoid any unwanted interactions.
We already covered the topic of revealing personal information to strangers online, but I believe it’s important to relay this information again.
It doesn’t matter who they are or who someone says they are, please never reveal information about yourself online. This includes never giving away your name, age, address or phone number.
There’s no need for anyone to have this information that you haven’t met in person.
One of the more fun aspects of online gaming is having a fun and trendy Gamertag. A Gamertag is merely a nickname you use to keep your name safe.
Every well-known esports athlete has a specific Gamertag they use.
CHECK IT OUT
We have an entire blog dedicated to Gamertags.
Gamertags are a great way to protect your identity as long as you don’t include personal information in the name.
Again if you are not a parent of a gamer, please feel free to skip this next tip.
I’m still stunned by that one stat about children ages 3 to 4 playing video games on tablets.
Thankfully there is a way to protect these very young gamers from accidentally making purchases within the game and connecting with people you don’t want them to.
Anytime your child is using your phone or tablet merely switch on airplane mode to protect them. This way they can continue to enjoy their video games without causing you any stress or anxiety.
For actual gamers turning on airplane mode won’t work for you.
The best way to accurately monitor your spending within a video game is to have a budget.
A budget that clearly lays out how much you can spend per month and on what type of items within the game.
I’m aware that having a budget is irrelevant if you’ve been signed to an esports team and they are making the purchases. But if you are still an amateur eSports gamer most likely you will still have to cover all purchases.
Come up with a plan and stick with that plan to make sure that your gaming career doesn’t get sidetracked by ridiculous bills.
For all gamers whether you’re a parent or not the essential thing to remember is to protect your personal information, try to play with people you know, and don’t be afraid to use the block feature.
Playing video games is supposed to be a fun activity!
It bums me out to even write this blog because of all the horrible things that can happen with online video games. To keep the fun, though it’s necessary to know how to protect yourself.
Will I need to play online to improve my esports career? Not necessarily, you can build your esports career by simply traveling to tournaments and competing in person.