Children in the online world. Are they in danger?

Are you in control of how much time your children spend playing online games? How do you feel about online gaming? Are you in favor of freedom, total ban or partial restriction? Thanks to digital technologies and the Internet, children mature faster and become familiar with computer technology much more easily. However, this does not mean that we should not be interested in what children actually do on the Internet and how much time they spend on it.

How much time do children spend playing on the Internet?

Did you know that teenagers spend an average of over four hours a day? Or that a child of preschool age should not spend more than half an hour a day? For example, an interesting fact is that the global pandemic increased the purchase of video games by 25%. Or that according to statistician expects there to be 3 billion online gamers in the world by 2023.

You've heard of the game Roblox, played by 200 million players? In its code of ethics, it undertakes to protect children. However, a parent who has experience with this game just stares at how many vulgar words and dangers the game contains.

This article mentions Roblox, but there are cheats in other games as well. Specifically in all where players can contact each other. And contact with others is one of the basic principles of most online games.

Risks associated with playing online games

Playing games is not bad in principle. Studies from Nature Scientific found that by playing games with children trains the brain and increases intelligence. Other studies from the Institute for Advanced Education warns against pitfalls of online games, which cause addiction, tension and teach children aggression.

There is no best and unique recipe, every child, every parent, every context is different. But it is important to talk to our children about the pitfalls they may encounter in the virtual world.

How to approach in different age categories can be found in another article here.

The pitfalls undoubtedly include:

  • Cyberbullying: Children may be bullied or harassed by other players while playing online games.
  • Inappropriate content: Children may be exposed to inappropriate language, images or themes.
  • Personal data: Children may be asked to provide personal information such as name, age or location.
  • Predators: Children can become targets of predators who use online games to communicate with and manipulate children.
  • Dependence: Internet games can lead to Internet addiction. This can disrupt their daily activities and relationships.
  • Payment fraud: Children can be tricked into making in-game purchases or providing payment information.

How can we protect our children?

  • Set a time limit for children to spend playing online games.
  • Make sure they take breaks and engage in other activities.
  • If possible, keep the computer or device in a common area of the home rather than in the child's room so that you can monitor their online activities.
  • Teach children about internet safety and the importance of protecting their personal information such as name, age and address.
  • Encourage children to let you know if they see something on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable or if someone asks them for personal information.
  • Remind children not to share personal information with strangers on the Internet and to ideally always ask for permission before downloading games or apps.
  • Use parental control software to block inappropriate websites and games and monitor your child's online activities.

Tips for parental control

There are family control tools that let you will allow you to limit the time spent on the Internet or block certain pages and keywords. They are usually installed on the computer or mobile device on which children use the Internet and allow parents to set access restrictions based on age or content category. On the one hand, some parental control is necessary. But on the other side even control should have its limits. Don't forget to let children have their natural curiosity and immediacy. You probably don't want the over-control to go as extreme as the show shows Black Mirror.

Parental control tools

The most common parental control apps are the ones you already have in your hands:

  • Screen time on iPhone
  • Family link on Android
  • Parental Controls on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok (Yes, they really are!)
  • Parental controls on Microsoft accounts, Windows, etc.
  • Parental controls on devices (such as Wifi routers)

Or try for example:

  • JakouHru.cz: a portal summarizing both the development potential of games and their pitfalls, as well as their fun.
  • KidLogger: can limit the time spent in any application.
  • Bark: tracks screen time.
  • Mobicip: contains basic tools for checking the time in front of the monitor.
  • Qustodio: is a monitoring tool and tracks geographic location.

Some final advice

  1. Talk openly with children about games that interest them.
  2. Inform them about the possible danger and advise them on what to do in case they encounter an unpleasant situation on the Internet.
  3. Check how much time they spend playing online and monitor whether the game content is appropriate for your child's age.
  4. When they have to play, play with them sometimes.
  5. Set an example for your children and try to spend less time on the Internet. Perhaps your child will take an example from you.

It's all about trust

Trust is important to successfully manage digital pitfalls. Parents' trust in their offspring. And the relationship with our children. If you have a good relationship with your children and they know they can come to you in case of trouble, then you are half won. If you put down what they do on the network, or evaluate it negatively and ban it, your child will continue anyway. He will only hide it from you so that you again "they didn't scold„.

We often look at children's world through our eyes and evaluate children's activities through our life filter. “This is bullshit, don't do this.” Yes, I'm not denying it, the online world is full of pitfalls that we need to protect children from. Just like in the physical world. Just don't close the door to the children's world and to the trust of your children. Feel free to keep thinking that it's nonsense. But try to remember how many stupid things you have done.