5 ways unmonitored gaming can cause trouble for your child

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Video games—a multi-billion dollar industry—is doing exceptionally great, generating more profits than any other entertainment industry, like theme parks or movie theatres.

I still remember when GTA V (kids love this video game) got a billion dollar sales on the first day of release, it’s when, I got all my eyes onto why gaming takes so much of our kids’ interest.

However, nowadays, gaming isn’t just confined to specialised consoles like Sony’s PlayStation or Microsoft’s Xbox—handhelds like iPad and a few others, claim to be more powerful than these gaming consoles. This would mean that our kids could be accessing games on their personal smartphones, tablets or computers without having to get hold of a gaming controller.

Video games aren’t bad, as long as they are played under parent’s supervision. In fact, it’s a great way to give your mood a positive nudge. But what about giving unlimited access to your child to play games all day? It’s a bad idea—very bad!

If your kid is spending too much time playing video games, then you need to know about their gaming pattern, like if they are playing online games; who are they playing these online games with, and what kind of interaction these online game provide.

If you aren’t sure how gaming can influence your child, read this:

1.      Violent games can encourage an aggressive behavior and desensitisation to violence

Most of the best selling gaming titles, like GTA (Grand Theft Auto), Halo, Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, Mad Max etc., are all extremely violent games. They feature blood, gore, guns, killing and stunts that can really give kids an adrenaline rush. They can also advocate (implicitly) use of weapons and street crime. For example, one day, I got to experience my child playing Grand theft Auto and to my surprise, dragging civilians under the wheels seemed alright to my son. In fact, it was pretty normal for him to shoot down innocent people walking down the streets. I was absolutely aghast—I knew what this game would do to him—desensitise him against violence, something that I would never want for my child.

But don’t worry parents, there is some homework done already. To control the level of exposure of your child to inappropriate content, the gaming industry has created ESRB— Entertainment Software Rating Board i.e. A self regulatory rating system that would tell parents what titles are suitable for their kids. Adults games usually have rating of “M” i.e. Mature, so watch out for anything that’s titled as “Mature: contains blood, gore and violence. Kids get attracted to these games more as they are apparently more entertaining.

2.      Recklessness and violence is inter-related (somehow)

A Study was conducted by Dartmouth that was trying to determine the correlation between teens’ reckless behavior and violent video games. Conclusion: Yes, violent games can encourage teens to go for a real-life violence. Games with anti-social traits have higher chances of doing the harm. That’s not all, teens who play violent games are more prone to car accidents and police stops.

3.      Gaming can lead to sexual abuse

There are many games that allow for online interaction amongst users. These video games—where they enhance user-experience, also provide unnecessary interaction that’s not need at all. It’s not uncommon for games with chat rooms to be filled with bullying and abuse, especially sexual harassment. Also, experts tell us that girls are targeted more in this culture of online sexual abuse through games.

Even though that developers have been taking care of this issue by restricting the interaction capabilities of the users, not every developer is convinced to do that. So make sure you talk to your child about cyberbullying to keep them away from any such risks.

4.      Gaming apps can ask for personal information

Whenever you play an online game on Facebook, it asks for accessing your social media profile, doesn’t it? This can be a really big problem for kids who simply acquiesce to such requests. Allowing app to access your profile would mean giving them away anything they want, like personal address, photos or videos, and even location details.

Sharing personal information within a game can also lead to credit card fraud, identity theft and stalking. Watch out for what your kids are sharing on their social media profiles.

5.      Gaming apps can infiltrate your phone with malicious software

Do you know that most of the kids try to download paid games through untrustworthy servers for free? These files and websites from where they are downloaded are full of malicious content. It’s very necessary to understand the the “permissions” that an app would ask for before the installation. Many of these app can legally get your personal information from your phone, because you agreed to all those terms and conditions, somehow.

So next time you or your kids download an app, take some time out to read through the terms and conditions before installation. Also, only stick to trusted gaming app stores like Play Store and App Store.

Keep this in mind that banning video games is the worst idea! One thing that you can’t tell your kids not to do is to play games. It’s very much innate in every child to love video games. But what you can do is to filter what they can access. Get them the gaming titles that are suitable for them, and always use parental controls on their electronic devices to know exactly what they they are downloading. And lastly, talk to your child about the risks and what not do while playing online games.

Use a parental control app like TrackMyFone on their smartphones to get access to their installed apps list.

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