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Best Ways To Protect Children Online

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, as the online world becomes more and more present in society, I check out the best ways to protect children online when they’re playing games or interacting with friends.

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Internet Access For Kids

The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and with it, the way our children interact and explore the world. Games, social media, and online learning platforms have become an undeniable part of their lives and as much as I try to limit their access, I do feel like I’m fighting against a tidal wave.

Right now, I limit their online activity a lot. They’re not allowed any social media, I have the online community action disabled on their video games, and I don’t post their faces in online presence. However, I know that the older they get, the harder those restrictions will be to impose. More and more education is online, socialising online is a huge part of the youth experience now, and at some point, I have to let them go and exist in the world as adults.

As parents and caregivers, it’s our responsibility to navigate this digital frontier alongside our children, ensuring their online safety, so instead of pretending it isn’t happening, I want to go in with my eyes open and make sure healthy and safe habits are established early on.

In this blog post, I’ll delve into the best ways to protect children online. I’ll explore practical strategies you can implement, from fostering open communication to utilizing parental controls, to equip our children with the tools they need to be responsible and safe digital citizens.

To help me out, Marin Cristian-Ovidiu, the CEO and inventor of OnlineGames.io, sent over a list of top tips for how to keep your child safe from online abuse that I will explore.

Best Ways To Protect Children Online

Hide Your Child’s Personal Details  

Your child should create a nickname and use an avatar that has no connection to them, rather than displaying their real name and photo. They should never have any of their basic details (date of birth, school/college name, mobile number, and address) attached to their account, and they should never discuss them online. 

  • Protecting from Predators: Unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet can attract malicious individuals. Sharing personal details like real names, addresses, or phone numbers can make children vulnerable to online predators who may try to contact them or gather information for harmful purposes.
  • Preventing Identity Theft: Personal details like birthdays, home addresses, or even pet names can be used by identity thieves to create fake accounts or steal information. Teaching children to be cautious about what they share helps safeguard their identities.
  • Combating Cyberbullying: Sharing personal details online can inadvertently provide ammunition for cyberbullies. By limiting the information readily available, children are less exposed to the risk of targeted online harassment.
  • Developing Healthy Online Habits: Instilling a sense of online privacy early on fosters responsible digital citizenship. Children learn to be discerning about the information they share and develop healthy online habits that protect them not just now, but throughout their digital lives.

Show Them How To Spot Unsafe Adults

Warn your child that adults can masquerade as children to obtain sexual pictures or arrange secret meet-ups. Try to have as open and honest communication with your children as possible so the moment anybody looks like they might be approaching that boundary, they feel safe to come to you for support.

Teaching your children “red flags” to watch out for empowers them to navigate online interactions safely. The goal isn’t to instill fear in your child, but to empower them to identify potentially risky situations.

  • Beware of Excessive Friendliness: Adults who shower children with compliments or gifts online are likely trying to gain their trust.
  • Adults asking for personal information: Explain that it’s never okay to share personal details like home addresses, phone numbers, or school names with strangers online.
  • Recognize Emotional Manipulation: Adults who try to make children feel bad about themselves or threaten them to keep secrets are potential threats.
  • Understand the Lure of “Exclusivity”: Adults who offer special favors or claim a “secret friendship” online are trying to isolate the child from trusted adults.
  • Uncomfortable conversations: Discuss the importance of respecting boundaries online. If someone asks questions or makes comments that make them feel uncomfortable, they should stop talking to them and tell you.

Cybercriminals often use in-game chats to perform their scams (e.g. offering fake loot boxes and downloads). Some try to get kids to give up their ‘skins’ (in-game cosmetic items) or in-app purchases by offering money. In some games, you can turn off the chat function to avoid these messages, but if you can’t, you should make sure your child is aware of the warning signs of a scam. 

  • Start Early: Don’t wait until there’s a problem. Begin conversations about online safety early, incorporating them into your regular discussions.
  • Create a Safe Space: Let your child know they can always come to you with any concerns or questions they have about their online interactions.
  • Focus on Feelings: Teach your child to be aware of their gut feelings. Explain that if something feels wrong or uncomfortable online, it probably is.

Also warn your child about behaviours known as trolling and griefing, where people deliberately play badly or do things that make games worse for their teams. Let them know that these people are out to provoke a reaction and the best thing they can do is ignore them.’

-Marin Cristian-Ovidiu

Create A Family Agreement

Discuss safety issues openly with your child, and encourage them to make an agreement with you about things they will and won’t do. This should cover points like how much screen time they’re allowed and an agreement to only play age-appropriate games. Encourage your child to tell you if there are issues, but monitor their games and conversations.

  • Gather the Family: Involve everyone in the discussion. This fosters a sense of ownership and accountability for the established rules.
  • Tailor it to Age: Consider your children’s age and maturity level. Younger children may need more specific guidelines, while teenagers may benefit from discussing broader topics like cyberbullying and online privacy.
  • Clear Expectations: It outlines agreed-upon boundaries for internet usage, including screen time, website restrictions, and responsible social media behavior.
  • Open Communication: The process of creating the agreement fosters open conversations about online safety concerns and potential risks.
  • Shared Responsibility: It establishes a collaborative approach to online safety. Parents set guidelines, while children understand the consequences of their online actions.

Block Them From Accessing Inappropriate Content 

Inappropriate online content can range from violence and pornography to gambling, and hate speech. Exposure to such content can be harmful to a child’s development and emotional well-being.

Creating a safe online environment for your children is an ongoing process. Technology evolves, and so should your approach. Stay updated on the latest online trends and threats, and adapt your strategies accordingly. By combining parental controls with open communication and media literacy education, you can build a sturdy digital fence that protects your children while allowing them to explore the wonders of the internet safely.

  • Parental Controls: Most devices and internet service providers offer parental control features. These tools allow you to:
    • Filter Content: Block access to websites with inappropriate content.
    • Restrict Applications: Limit or block access to certain apps that may not be suitable for children.
    • Monitor Activity: Gain insights into your child’s online activity, helping you identify potential risks.
  • Search Engine Filters: Activate SafeSearch settings in search engines like Google and Bing to filter out inappropriate results.
  • Security Software: Consider using security software with parental control features for an additional layer of protection.
  • Whitelisting: Explore “whitelisting” options if available on your device. This allows access only to pre-approved websites, ensuring your child can only visit safe sites.

You can adjust each game’s privacy settings so you have more control over your child’s access. You can also update console settings to set age restrictions, manage online interactions, filter content, and control online purchases. This will prevent your child from being able to download games that feature adult content.

-Marin Cristian-Ovidiu

Have A Gameplan For Dealing With Nasty Players

The world of online gaming can be a fantastic space for connection and fun. However, just like any playground, it can attract bullies who try to spoil the experience for others.

  • Gaming Bullies: Online anonymity can embolden players to engage in hurtful behavior like name-calling, threats, and exclusion. This can negatively impact your child’s self-esteem and enjoyment of the game.
  • Cyberbullying: If the bullying is persistent and severe, it can be classified as cyberbullying, a serious issue with potential emotional consequences.

Run your child through the steps of what they should do if someone becomes abusive or behaves suspiciously.

First, immediately block them. Secondly, game developers usually allow you to report these people by providing screenshots or chat logs, so make sure both you and your child know how you can report suspicious or abusive individuals. This will usually result in them getting banned from the game, meaning your child can continue playing in peace.

  • Open Communication: Create a safe space for your child to talk about their online experiences. Encourage them to come to you if they encounter bullying behavior.
  • Developing a Thick Skin: Explain that not everyone online will be nice, and some may try to get a reaction. Help them understand the difference between harmless teasing and true bullying.
  • Focus on the Fun: Remind them that the goal is to have fun while playing. Encourage them to find games with positive communities or play with friends who promote good sportsmanship.
  • Don’t Engage: The best response to most bullies is silence. Engaging with them can give them the satisfaction they seek and escalate the situation.
  • Mute and Report: Most games offer options to mute annoying players or report them to the game moderators. Encourage your child to utilize these features.
  • Take a Break: Sometimes, stepping away from the situation is the best solution. Encourage your child to take a break or switch to another game if needed.

Prevent Them From Maxing Out Your Card

Many games are now designed around in-game purchases, which usually charge huge amounts for cosmetic items or new characters. Charges from these purchases can stack up fast – in fact, most of these games are designed to tempt you into racking up a huge bill.

  • In-App Purchases: Many free games and apps offer in-app purchases that unlock new features, items, or levels. These can be tempting for children and lead to unexpected charges.
  • Subscriptions: Freemium models with hidden subscription fees can quickly become a recurring expense.
  • Digital Content: Virtual goods like clothing for avatars or special game features can be surprisingly costly.

The ease of online shopping can be tempting for kids, but unexpected charges can surprise parents. Here are some steps you can take to prevent unauthorized online spending:

  • Password Protection: Enforce password or fingerprint verification on all devices for purchases. This adds an extra step that discourages impulsive buys.
  • App Store Security: Utilize parental controls within app stores like Google Play or Apple App Store. These allow you to require passwords for all purchases, preventing accidental spending.
  • Disable Autofill: Web browsers often remember payment information for convenience. Turn off autofill features to prevent saved credit card details from being used for surprise purchases.
  • Separate Accounts: Consider prepaid debit cards with limited funds for your child’s online transactions. This teaches budgeting and avoids exceeding spending limits.
  • Virtual Cards: Services like Privacy.com offer virtual cards with specific spending limits. These can be created for individual purchases, providing extra control.
  • Open Communication: Talk openly with your child about online spending. Explain the value of money and responsible purchasing habits.

Make sure none of your cards or your bank account are attached to whatever device your child plays on so there’s no chance of them using your money to buy pixels!

-Marin Cristian-Ovidiu

About Online Games

OnlineGames.io is a free online gaming platform. It was initially published in 2020, in response to the belief that everyone should have access to free online entertainment. Since then, OnlineGames.io has had thousands of users around the world. The company has an exclusive collection of online browser games that are growing day by day. They elaborate their collection meticulously to maintain high-quality service for their users.

Marin Cristian-Ovidiu, a developer with 10+ years of experience in game design and game development, invented OnlineGames.io. Masked Forces, one of his best-known games, was published on multiple platforms.

Methodology

The statistic about how many children play video games was taken from a paper by Daniel Alanko entitled The Health Effects of Video Games in Children and Adolescents.’ 

The statistic about how many gamers suffer abuse while gaming online was taken from Statista.

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