It’s no surprise that kids love video games, and with smartphones and mobile devices becoming increasingly common, mobile games are especially popular. In fact, there are an estimated 2.8 billion mobile gamers across the world as of 2021, making it a popular past time for people of all age groups. These mobile games can be a lot of fun and even educational in some cases, but they also present potential risks, particularly for children.
Want to make sure your kids are safe while playing their favorite mobile games? This helpful guide will cover some of the potential dangers and how you ensure your children’s safety.
The most common way to download mobile games is through the App Store. Android, Apple, Microsoft, and BlackBerry mobile operating systems, as well as some online retailers, all have online app stores where you can download games and other applications. Many of these applications are free, but some are not, so you may need to provide a credit card number in order purchase certain games. These online storefronts also usually have parental controls that allow you to manage kids’ purchases and the use of apps in general.
You can also download games outside of official app stores, but this comes with a serious risk. Due to how these storefronts are managed, games are generally rated for age appropriateness, making it easier to know what kind of content the game has and whether it’s something you want your child to play. Games downloaded outside of official storefronts tend to lack such information. Additionally, downloading mobile games outside of official storefronts is a potential cybersecurity risk, as it could contain viruses and other harmful software.
Many gaming apps are considered “free-to-play,” but that doesn’t mean that there are no fees involved. Several popular games have premium features that you have to pay for access to, from purely aesthetic options like character skins to special items that can help players win. These in-app purchases range from simply buying specific items from an in-game store to purchasing “loot boxes” that offer random items. The latter can be especially insidious, as it encourages people to keep buying these randomized loot boxes to try and get an item that they want. Some have even compared this practice to gambling due to its addictive qualities. Thankfully, some apps have the option to block in-app purchases under security settings.
Cyberbullying & Stranger Danger
Some of the most popular games among kids, both mobile and otherwise, have online functionality where they can play and chat with other people. With some games, you only play with people that you already know, but others allow you to play with anyone, which can potentially lead to problems. The anonymity of online games makes it easy for kids and adults alike to harass and bully other players. It also means that it can potentially be an opportunity for harassment.
To counter this, encourage your kids to avoid playing with people that they don’t know. This isn’t always possible mind you: some online games random pair up players, so there’s not always an option to only play with friends. In situations like this, it’s good to suggest that kids to put away the headset and not interact too much with these players beyond the game itself. Most importantly, you tell them that if someone says something inappropriate or makes them feel uncomfortable, they should come to you.
How to Ensure Kids Are Safe
If your child spends any serious amount of time playing games on their smartphone or other mobile devices, it is a good idea to set some ground rules to ensure that they’re safe. Just taking few extra precautions will guarantee that their gaming experience is fun and secure.
- Set up parental controls, both on the device and in the game’s settings.
- Keep an eye on what games your kids are playing. By taking an interest in the games, you make it less likely that they’ll hide something from you.
- Explain to your kids that they should not give out personal information online, not even to close friends.
- Tell your kids to only download games through the App Store or other official storefronts.
- Establish grounds rules that your kids can only buy games or make in-app purchases with your permission.
- Encourage good online behavior, reminding kids to treat others how you want to be treated.
- Help your child think critically online, reminding them that not everything they see or read online is true.
- Urge your kids to tell you if someone is bullying them online or sending inappropriate messages.
Hopefully this was helpful for you and your loved ones. If you have any further advice for staying safe while gaming, let us know. And if you want another layer of security to protect your family, consider buying a subscription to CleanInternet