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Online Gaming Addiction – A prevention Guide for parents

There has been a lot of noise in the news recently about online gaming addictions. It appears during lockdown, many kids and teenagers have developed a habit of playing online games. Gaming addiction has officially been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition. Many parents and guardians are getting worried that their children may get addicted to online gaming

Gaming addiction is defined “by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities”

Although there are some great benefits to online gaming for young people, it’s important to be aware of some of the risks that might impact their wellbeing. Games offers escapism from the real life. However, there are certain cyber risks that kids are exposed to whilst playing online games. These dangers range from cyberbullying, meeting strangers with ill intentions online and tricking children into revealing personal information about themselves, or their parents. Online games have also started to show signs of children developing gambling addictions. With the prospect of winning or being moved to the next level by buying virtual tokens, children are often hungry to fuel their desire by moving up a level, and therefore end of using parents’ card details to make in app purchases. The media has reported several stories of children raking up high financial losses.

  The Common Types of Dangers Kids are Exposed to in Online Games

Impact on Mental health

87 % parents believe that online gaming takes a toll on children overall health.

Gaming addiction can impact mental, emotional and physical health in a variety of ways, including obesity and, high blood pressure from a sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity. Lack of concentration and attention due to rapid movements and fast-paced action of video games, changes in behaviour such as developing aggression, or displaying violence due to violent content on gaming sites. 

Meeting strangers online

In gaming kids usually don’t create accounts with their real names. Cybercriminals may chat with your kid in a general chat and then start sharing personal messages asking their private information; they may piece those information and get hold of their other accounts or create a fake digital identity on your kids name.

Cyberbullying

Cyber bullies in games target players directly with hurtful and harmful comments or by spamming global chat channels with adult comments about their victims.

 Financial loss

6-year-old spends Rs 11 lakh on in-game purchases from mother’s credit card, tells her, ‘I’ll pay you back’ With any game you play, there is always going to be competition. The difference between a real game and an online game is the concept of levels. In the digital gaming world, various levels are created to encourage people to continue to play the game. For children, this can become very addictive as they immerse themselves into the virtual game. With many pop ups of virtual tokens, or level booster popping up, children will often find themselves having to choose between taking the hard road to winning, and taking the easier route. Often these easier routes which are disguised as virtual tokens or level boosters will demand payments – and when kids want to win – this becomes the opportunity for them to start making in- app purchases.

The real danger here is for parents. Quite often, parents will give their mobile phones or devices to their children and subsequently giving free reign for their children to make in app purchases. Across the global, we have witnessed many parents fall into this trap and incurring debts as a result of their children being addicted to online games. The financial loss we’ve heard about ranges from small to large amounts often in the thousands.

Devices getting infected with malware or viruses

Online games often come with a chat facility. These chat facilities are designed for players to interact with each other during the game, but quite often can be used as platform to spread viruses and malware. With many children unaware of the risks, this serves as a perfect platform for cybercriminals to start implanting malicious links carrying malware or viruses with the intention to infect player’s devices.

The Online Gaming Addiction Prevention Guide

With Online gaming addictions on the rise, we know that help and advice can go a long way. Follow this advice and keep your kids safe, and wallets protected.

Review your child’s online games

Take an interest in what your children are playing and watching online. Regularly review the types of games your children are playing online and monitor the amount of time they spend on them.

Play together

Sometimes it’s a good time to play these games with your kids. That way you’re keeping an eye on any malicious activity, and bonding with them.

 Educate

Talk to them regarding the cyber risks involved inside the gaming world. How they should respond to unwanted request or avoid giving out personal details. For example check the real identity of the person before chatting, don’t give out personal information, and don’t let them enter personal networks like what’s app and social media.

Set Time limit

Where gaming gets excessive, time limits can be a good short term measure to reset bad habits. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests time allotted should be under 30 to 60 minutes per day on school days and 2 hours or less on non- school days

Cybersecurity software

Use your cyber security software to scan the files when you download them to your computer or mobile device.

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