**Originally published July 17, 2014. Updated November 1, 2019.**
The variety and quantity of online video games available to our children are quite frankly overwhelming. And all kids seem to be programmed with an uncanny sense of the perfect time to interrupt their parents, catching us off guard and distracted, to ask for help downloading the latest “it” game. Or, worse, doing it without our knowledge at all, so we’re unaware of what they’re playing or who they may be playing with online.
Identity and Safety Risks
Not knowing how to navigate the social risks associated with careless gaming could easily lead to child identity theft, or even more frightening, your child being contacted by an adult posing as a child, soliciting personal information, or attempting to arrange a place for them to meet. And hackers are innovative when it comes to developing new malware (computer viruses, trojan horses, worms, etc.) to steal credentials and other valuable Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
The risks of identity theft to children are real, and they are becoming victims in increasing numbers — as many as 1 million every year, to the tune of $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses to families. Do you know what online games your child, tween, or teen plays, and whether they’re interacting or chatting with strangers on public servers? Protect yourself and your children by taking control of your security and having those difficult conversations.
10 Tips to Keep Your Child Safe While Playing Games Online
- Avoid executable (.exe) add-ons that promise to add extra functionality to a game, as these may be infected with keylogging software or viruses designed to steal your login credentials.
- Gamemasters (GMs) of multiplayer role-playing games do not need, and will never ask for, your login information.
- Create a strong password that includes upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols that only you could know.
- Be skeptical of third-party applications, especially knock-off games; do your research before you download.
- Be wary of links and attachments delivered to you via email or instant message that say your password has been compromised; they could be phishing attempts that direct you to imposter sites! Research by contacting the site through established channels.
- Before purchasing a game online, make sure the URL, or web address, begins with “https”, an indication it’s a secure site; use a credit card instead of a debit card so you’re not providing direct access to your bank account.
- Like a toothbrush, don’t share your computer, because a less savvy person could easily and unknowingly download malware.
- Keep your anti-virus software updated, be aware of mobile app privacy policies, and investigate the parental controls available for games and gaming systems.
- Review your credit card and banking statements on a monthly basis for signs of unusual or fraudulent charges so you can take action quickly against further theft.
- Stay informed of the latest hacker methods by reading sites such as ours, and remind children of the risks associated with over-sharing online; let them know that you’re not trying to be a “downer,” but have their best interests at heart.
Here’s a clever Minecraft YouTube video created by some students for a school project. It could be a great way to get the conversation started.
Learn more about privacy and identity theft issues for children, and how to protect them. If you are concerned about safeguarding your family against child identity theft, IdentityForce offers ChildWatch as an additional service available to any adult IdentityForce membership. And, for organizations that offer IdentityForce identity protection as a benefit to their employees, ChildWatch is free.
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