With block games taking over in the gaming world, parents (like me!) are excited to see building games that don't have guns, violence or fighting. Games like Minecraft and Roblox were games I felt a little less guilty about when I said yes to playing on the computer. But you still need to be mindful of child internet safety if your kids are playing those games.
Recently media outlets were flooded with a father's plea to other parents warning them about Roblox after his son was sent chat messages that were sexual in nature. As a parent that is pretty saavy with technology, this did not surprise me. What surprised me was that the father was so shocked. As parents we must be in the know about online games, how they work and child internet safety. You have to treat online games that offer multiplayer options the same way you would treat your child playing at the park--everyone is a stranger and the only person you can control is yourself and your child. Internet safety for our children is a new parental requirement.
ONLINE GAMES MEAN OPEN CHAT
If your child is playing online games--via their phone, iPad, computer or gaming console--they are playing the game with other individuals. You have no control over who those individuals are, what age they are, what their real intent is or what they type and say into open chats. You can take certain precautions such as locking down the microphone and headsets, or setting their characters to only allow chats with "friends", however none of these measures are 100%. What you should know about child internet safety is that an online game means open communication with strangers. Period.
ROBLOX ISN'T ALWAYS INNOCENT
The online game Roblox has been dubbed the new Minecraft. Blocky figures can walk in to different mini games created by other players. Children ages 8 to 14 are the most common age group playing, but oftentimes you can hear of older gamers playing as well (yes, even your 40 year old neighbor may play). You can earn and purchase Robux that allow you to customize your block character and buy add-ons to make your character stand out from others. Another reason parents are drawn to letting their kids play Roblox is because the violence is minimal, usually. There isn't red blood or guts flying everywhere.
The cautionary tale for parents is that Roblox offers new environments (mini games) created by other players that you can enter and play. These mini games are not created by the Roblox game creators. Mini games range from harmless Pokemon lands to the less innocent mini games about assassins or breaking out of jail. I admit that I let my kids play Roblox, but there are many mini games I have banned. At times trying to police what they are playing on Roblox is exhausting. So much so that we are currently in the middle of a video game hiatus at my house (best month of my life!).
What you should know about child internet safety is the importance of knowing what games are being played and what games are available as options to select. You have to get involved and ask your children questions. Stand over their shoulder and watch them play! Sneak up on them if you have to. You heard me. Do it.
MINECRAFT MODS ARE SCARY
Minecraft really hit the gaming big leagues once Microsoft purchased Mojang, the Minecraft creators. What some parents don't realize is that Minecraft began on personal computers; the online version of this game is still a big draw for many children...and adults. I often hear my sons refer to "Minecraft mods" which mean "modifications", but what I didn't realize is just how intense some of these mods can be. A simple and fun block building game quickly turned in to a combat war with weapons and killing. I was even more disgusted when I found there are mods converting simple game play in to a sex rendezvous. Yes, really. Minecraft now has multiple "sex mods". It only takes your child watching their blocky characters do and say a few weird and new things to peak interest. Of course once they see one mod, they are going to want to google more--and the internet has plenty. Go ahead...do a quick google search on "Minecraft Sex Mods". I'll wait here...
Source: Flickr. Image by Ivo Napflin
What you should know about child internet safety with online games is anything can be modified into something disturbing, sexy and downright inappropriate for kids. If your kids are playing online games, you should be watching what they do. Look at your internet search history! Log in as your child to see what chat messages say. Log in as your child to see what mini games were recently played (or even just looked at). When all else fails or it seems like too much--turn the games off. They won't die. You won't die. I promise.
SEE MORE: Kids Internet & Social Media Safety
I love technology. My kids love technology. Amazing things have happened because of technology. Some terrible things have happened and continued to happen because of the internet and technology. What we should know as parents is everything we can about internet safety and how to safeguard our children. We need to understand their digital world so we can guide them through it safely and talk to them about any negative experiences they may have had.
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