| Gaming consoles such as Sony
PSP, PS2, Nintendo DS & Gamecube and Microsoft Xbox appear
innocent enough, yet they should all carry a health warning.
Modern gaming consoles are sophisticated items that allow
your children to connect to the Internet and chat to others
and therefore have risks attached.
- Your child can play inappropriate games. Every game has a
game rating. Games range from those that can be played by everyone
to those that have a decidedly adult content, showing references
to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, rape, violent sexual acts, mutilation
of body parts, intense violence, nudity, and profanity. If you
don’t want your 10 year old see disturbing material, educate
yourself and become familiar with game
ratings and privacy statements, and review each online gaming
site's terms of acceptable use.
- Some consoles are wireless enabled, so your child can connect
to your computer network, or to their computer by a lead and
download inappropriate material onto their console. If you have
a wireless network that is not password protected or you do not
have content blocking, your children will be able to surf the
web and view inappropriate sites without you even knowing. To
prevent your pre-teen youngsters from accessing these sites,
you should download a content blocker like Net
Nanny, which will block these sites on their computer.
- Your child could play online games with others who are not
who they appear to be. Your child could be contacted by a complete
stranger pretending to be someone they aren't. There have been
many reported cases of young children being groomed for sex by
older predators pretending to be young teens. Make sure you monitor
game chats and messages. Check who your children play with. Place
the computer or game console in a place where it can be easily
monitored if needed.
- Your child could be subjected to inappropriate language. Encourage
your child to tell you. You may be able to select the offending
player's name from the players list to mute
or block their messages, or you can report them to game administrators
using e-mail, chat, or feedback. Check the game site in question
for more information.
- Your child could inadvertently give out information. Advise
your kids to never give out any personal information such as
their name, age, gender, or home address, pictures of themselves,
or agree to meet someone in person, when using online chats.
Make sure they know to tell you immediately if someone asks them
for this information. Have your child use suitable screen or
character names (gamertags) that do not reveal any personal information
or potentially invite harassment.
- Your child could voice chat with other players.
Some game systems allow voice chatting with other players through
the use of a headset. This is not recommended for younger children.
See your computer or game console manual for more information
about this feature. Voice
cloaking technology, now available on most game consoles can
disguise a child's real voice. Adults can mask their voices too,
and not everyone is necessarily who they say they are.
- Your child could be bullied by other gamers. Tell your kids
that if they feel uncomfortable with anything that's going on
in a game, they should stop playing and tell you about it immediately,
so you can record and report the issue if necessary.
If you know of any
other risks, please share them with us by clicking
Set rules before your child goes online, and be comfortable that he or she understands
them. Typical rules include limiting play time, playing with off-line world friends
only, and never chatting with strangers or giving out any personal information,
including the child's real name or where they live.
You should also draw up a Web Code of Conduct for your kids and get them to sign
it. A good example can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/children/famwebrules.mspx Also
see the Xbox
Live code of conduct page as an example.
Participate with your kids to play online games. It's a good way to help them
learn how to deal with others online while still having fun.