Q: My eight-year-old son enjoys playing video games. We try our best to manage his playing time, but recently I saw a news story about how predators target children through online gaming. Is there anything we can do to protect our son?
A: Kudos for caring enough about your son to manage his gaming activity. Sadly, predators are not easily deterred in their efforts to exploit vulnerabilities of the innocent, so you’re wise to exercise parental diligence. The following are measures we’d recommend:
- If you haven’t already done so, be sure that your game system is in a public area of your home where your son’s online interactions can be easily monitored.
- Familiarise yourself with and use the parental controls of the gaming system. Not only can you set time limits, but you can restrict access to inappropriate games.
- Check the game system settings to make sure any online methods of locating your son are turned off.
- Teach your son why he must keep personal information private (no last names, addresses, phone numbers, age, school information, photos, etc.).
- Set clear boundaries and explain why he should never visit chat rooms or engage strangers in online conversation.
- Establish a rule that allows online gaming only with friends that you and your son both
know,and instruct him to tell you if fellow players do anything unsafe or inappropriate.
- Limit all gaming-related purchases to you and your spouse only.
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