Child’s safety on online games begins at home, and should start at an early stage. This requires an intention to understand the online gaming space as well as the urgency to foster a safe online gaming environment for your child.
Why Kids Become Addicted to Playing Online Games?
Online gaming is not only a form of entertainment or past-time activity, it helps children foster their creativity, think strategically, achieve goals as well as improve communication skills. However, parents who fail to ensure their kid’s safety while playing online games can be dangerous,
According to health experts, internet gaming disorder is widely prevalent among children aged between five and 18 years of age, and are quickly susceptible to addiction as their brains aren’t fully developed. More worrying are long-term effects of excessive online gaming on children that result in behavioral change, family conflict, criminal tendency, turning violent, mental or attention disorder, with many requiring counseling help.
The news makes headlines across Indian media with children facing internet gaming disorder committing theft to pay for online games, and even crimes. Parents should look out for symptoms arising out of excessive online gaming including lack of attention at studies or outdoor games, and withdrawal symptoms such as sadness, anxiety, irritability when forcibly stopped.
Advice to parents of kids addicted to online games: Instead of stopping children from playing online games, parents should focus on creating a safe gaming environment. Some of them include:
- Play online games with kids that include activities.
- Review games your children play and time they spent on playing.
- Reduce screen time.
- Encourage kids to take breaks.
Mitigating Contact with Strangers – Cyber Bullying, Data Theft
Online gamers connect with other players to interact, learn tips and tricks, share strategies, create teams, play games together or watch others playing—and even earn accolades over victory. However, the platform can be used by online predators to target kids, cyberbullying, and even for recruitment for extremist purposes.
Cybercriminals may also use online gaming as a platform to access data, which can compromise both child’s and parent’s personal information. Particularly on social media platforms and online gaming communities, users create anonymous profiles to target kids, and thus it would be difficult to track their identity.
Users are seen posting inappropriate content, which includes hate speech, vulgar and sexually explicit language or memes, images and videos. Such content can have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem and emotional development.
Advice to parents on kids contacting strangers via online games: Online games can be a useful tool for kids to improve communication skills. In order to ensure kid’s safety from cyberbullying, or stop them from becoming one, parents should:
- Create a separate account for kids on devices to play games.
- Enable parental control on devices or gaming consoles.
- Use privacy and security features to flag malicious attempts to access private information.
- Turn on online chat notifications for gaming apps.
- Check out comments and posts of users with whom your kids are connected on social media and online communities.
- Use antivirus software and VPN to connect to online games.
Risk of Losing Money on In-app Purchases and Freemium Games
Freemium games allow users to play the game online for free of cost, but charge a certain fee to grant an access to additional features, such as an instant upgrade of the gaming character. Parents often fall prey to losing money unknowingly to such online games when kids use their debit or credit cards to buy gaming tokens to get access to unique features. Once the online payment is set up with the device’s playstore, on smartphones for instance, such payments can be made easily with OTP sent on the registered mobile number.
Advice to parents on kids making in-app purchases: Purchasing gaming features enable users to get an upperhand to achieve their goals. To ensure your kids aren’t making online payments to freemium games without your knowledge, parents should:
- Create a separate gaming account for kids on devices and gaming consoles.
- Use parental control to ensure your kid’s account does not have access to online payments.
- Review costs before allowing kids to download the game.
- Consider buying gift cards instead of using debit or credit cards to make payments
- Turn on email notifications to get updates on any payments made to freemium games
Featured Partner For Parental Monitoring
What is Online Fantasy Sports: Gambling or Game of Skills?
Fantasy sports involve participants forming a virtual team of sportsmen whose performance in real-life sports matches are converted into gaming scores. This requires purchasing players as per their credit, and depending on their performance in the live match are scores earned by participants. The participants compete among themselves in a virtual contest, and win prizes or lose money in the process.
Some observers say that such games involve gambling, while others defend as saying that it is a game that requires skills and knowledge and can’t be done just by chance or luck. However, the Supreme Court of India has upheld fantasy sports as the game of skills and are protected under Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution.
Advice to parents of kids playing fantasy sports: It is important for parents to understand what online fantasy sports are, and educate children accordingly, which include:
- Understanding the type of fantasy game being played by kids, and how they are played.
- Is fantasy gaming benefiting your kids, enhancing their skills and knowledge, or are they just interested in betting?
- Are kids showing any signs and symptoms of addiction towards such games?
- Consider buying gift cards, instead of using debit or credit cards to make payments.
- Turn on email notifications to get updates on any payments made to fantasy sports.
Online Gaming Safety Laws in India
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) on April 20, 2023, introduced new amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to foster responsible online gaming in the country. The said amendments to the rules have been proposed to protect online gamers, especially children, from harmful content and addiction. Here are the key takeaways, as follows:
- A self-regulatory body (SRB) designated by the central government will verify online games that are permissible, real money or otherwise, that do not involve wagering.
- The rules disallow intermediaries from promoting ads of an online game that is not permissible.
- Permissible online games are those that do not involve wagering, and are compliant to the age as per the SRB’s online gaming framework.
- The rules empower the central government to control any non-real money online game that could have a harmful impact, including self-harm and psychological harm.
- Permissible online games should have measures to safeguard children through parental controls and age-rating mechanisms, as well as measures to mitigate risk of gaming addiction, financial loss and fraud.
- SRB-verified permissible online games will carry a visible mark of verification.
- The know-your-customer (KYC) will have to be mandatorily followed by intermediaries before allowing users to deposit or receive cash from to and from online games, perse fantasy games
- Permissible online games taking payments should ensure protection to user deposits. This includes barring third parties from lending credit to the users.