Like anyone else on the Internet, gamers also can be victims. Data theft, downloading accounts and other scams such as "social engineering" and "fishing" have become an everyday danger.
However, in gaming, as in other digital spheres, children and young adults are the most vulnerable. The fact is that adult offenders often use game platforms, so they can influence the youngest population and try to build a relationship with them.
Fun For Everyone, But...
Most children and young adults find gaming a fun way to spend their spare time with friends. Numerous games are available and they're aimed at various ages. You also enjoy the different game themes - from mission-based adventure to animation and sports themed.
Today, many games even have interactive online elements. They usually mean playing against other users online, chatting or purchasing. We'll try to explain some gaming elements and reveal how they can be abused by adult offenders.
Games And Chats
Online and other games can be treated like a type of social network. Many of them have an interactive chat function. Chat is enabling users to communicate with one another. Depending on their privacy settings, gamers can be reached by people they may or may not know. They can also play against the "bots". A bot is a character or a player. It is usually controlled by a computer, and it's created by "outside" sources, so it can send messages. Very often, those messages are filled with links leading you to external websites. Many of them are inappropriate and contain violent or sexual content. Bots are not easy to spot since their messages are usually very realistic. If your children get a message from a user that is unknown, tell them not to respond or click on the links message contained. The advice is to report such users immediately to website administrators. On the other hand, voice communication within the game is also present quite often. VoIP technology allows gamers to talk to each other during the game. It can be a group or an individual conversation. Some consoles allow even leaving voice messages, so users can chat even after the game is done. Be careful, and try to spot such things right away.
The Offenders Can Abuse Gaming Platforms
Many types of gaming communication can be recognized as a risk for children and young people. Many adult offenders are seeking ways to get through young people. Gaming is almost an ideal way to make that happen. Playing games is exciting and fun, but also can be dangerous. Children become less protected since they are not considering whom do they talk to, or what do they share online.
These conversations are usually transferred to another social media platform, where offenders try to build a relationship of trust. They usually encourage children to chat in a private messenger and have a one-to-one conversation. We must emphasize that the functionality of games can be various.
However, there are some effective ways to keep your children safe while gaming.
1. Talk to your kids
Have honest and friendly conversations with your child. Always try to know more about the person they are talking to while they're online. Ask your children if they know them in real life and what do they share online. These things are crucial if you want your child to be safer.
2. Explore games together
Take some spare time to be with your children. Let them feel free to show you what games they like. Suggest them to make private profiles and point them to information that is safe to share. For instance, nicknames as opposed to full names.
3. The danger is lurking from the chat
Ask your children about what would they do if someone asks them to talk privately. Try to help your children identify the warning signs. Explain the danger to them and advise them what to do to keep safe.
4. Help your children make safe decisions
Remember that young people need support so they can make safe decisions. Primary aged children are recommended to remain under adult supervision. An adult should always be near, catching any VoIP conversations made, and be able to notice if any chat taking place.
Offenders can tempt your children with “gifts” via gaming platforms
Many online games and applications have the option of making purchases.
That means those who are playing games can buy tools that will be used in a game. These tools purpose is to give players some game advantages. That can be coins, lives, weapons, energy, etc. Children usually don't have access to money to make purchases while gaming. Therefore, it can be tempting to accept the so-called "in-game currency". The offenders mostly use gifts in games, so they can encourage children to trust them. At first, they may not ask anything in return, as part of the plan to build a close relationship with a child. Others are using gifts as an asset to persuade children to move to another online platform, webcam conversation or taking a photo.
If you're suspecting that a child is being "targeted" in a game, or on other online platforms - seek for support. You can always contact Child Exploitation and Online Protection Organisations or your local police station.