Here’s what your kids are really doing online…

We speak to a lot of parents about internet safety and know that cyberbullying, inappropriate website usage & chatting with strangers are some of your biggest concerns. Navigating the need for increased internet usage can be scary for parents, especially when you don’t want your kids to miss out or fall behind with technology.

You can try to manage, limit or even ban screen time, but with it being practically mandatory for all school aged children to be competent online, how do you as a parent keep up & ensure your child is safe without standing over them at any given time?

At Yomojo we know communication goes a long way in educating your child on the dangers of the internet. School led education plays a big part too, but even so, can you be absolutely certain of what your kids are doing online ALL the time?

You can friend them, talk to them, even manage their social accounts, but the sad truth is parents may be out of touch with reality – only because things are evolving so quickly and the latest trends can be over before you even know it.

We’ve outlined a couple of the games that you might (or might not!) have heard of and things to look out for:

Fortnite

Apparently it’s not just kids that are addicted to this game. In a recent survey reported here 5% of divorces can be attributed to Fortnite  – ok, so that’s not really our concern, but if parents are having trouble and it’s changing behaviours, then imagine what this is doing to your child’s mind.

Fortnite is a survival sandbox game, and Fortnite Battle Royale, its most popular mode, is a multiplayer Hunger Games–style shooter-survival contest where the goal is to kill off everyone else. Released by Epic Games last year, Fortnite is free to download and available on nearly every gaming platform. As Quartz reported earlier, nearly 70% of Fortnite players buy digital items—such as new outfits for their characters—and those who do spend on average $85 for such accessories. In April 2018 alone, Fortnite made nearly $300 million for Epic Games. Approximately 125 million people worldwide were playing Fortnite across all platforms as of June 2018, and more than 40 million log in to it every month.

So, should you be worried if your child is playing this game? The answer – well yes and no – it’s HIGHLY addictive and schools have indicated a change of behaviour from school children that play Fortnite. The game causes such an adrenaline serve and endorphin rush that it’s hard to get your kids to engage after they’ve been playing.

 

Source: Epic Games

According to Business InsiderFortnite is so popular that after just six months, it was briefly the most-watched game on game-streaming platform Twitch. It’s currently second. Amazingly, 3.4 million people were playing the game at exactly the same time at one point in February.

Of course it’s perfectly normal for your kids to be attracted to the latest trends and games that all their friends are getting involved with. The important thing to consider with this particular game is to make sure it doesn’t engulf their lives and to have clear limits on how much they are playing. This means limiting screen time, creating proper bed time routines and scheduling LOTS of outdoor activities with ACTUAL people without a screen involved.

Minecraft

Oh, Minecraft. The sandbox game  that is designed to boost players’ creativity, encouraging them to mine for supplies and build structures as they wish in an endless world of cubes. If you child hasn’t brought it up, then you’ve no doubt heard a school aged child talking about how a Creeper blew up their mansion, or wearing the game’s official merchandise, or even playing with its LEGO-themed play-sets.

 

Even Super Mario got in on the Minecraft action. (Source)

The game has been so well-received since its inception in 2011, that over 250 million copies of the game have been sold. Yep, that means it’s become one of the most popular PC games of all-time at the pace of lightning. Its popularity was so big that Microsoft eventually bought the IP for $2.5 billion dollars from the developer.

While this is a relatively peaceful game with a lot of positive aspects to it, even becoming a tool for education  at some schools, the risk of addiction similarly to Fortnite, is HIGH. Channel Nine Australia reported that one teen in Sydney missed out on around two years of school due his addiction with video games, including Minecraft… uh huh, limit screen time for this one too.

Of course, people keep coming back for more for all these well-made games. What places Minecraft in the same category as the other games in this is – you guessed it – its online community. With thousands of people playing the game’s multiplayer mode at any given time. That’s not ALWAYS a bad thing but there’s always the risk of shady individuals that are able to talk to your kids under the guise of an innocent player. This is mostly done through the multiplayer mode’s default unregulated chat system on online servers.

Minecraft also has a large following on YouTube, so the “community” goes further than game itself. Some YouTube personalities have been caught grooming underage children through this extended community. Just something to consider next time your child wants to show you their next pixelated mansion. Our top tip: Watch your child play, talk about how to communicate and teach your kids never to give out personal details.

Roblox

What might seem a simplistic Minecraft replica is actually something much more socially oriented, but with that comes risk. Roblox is one of the world’s largest social gaming platforms, disguised as a play-hub for children. With all sorts of minigames and servers for your bulky avatars to explore and have adventures in, what else could there be but other players?

With the small amount of digital currency (called Robux) your customisable avatar begins with, soon enough your child will be begging for you to lend them just a few dollars to buy that cool new hair style… and then a few more after that for the piece of clothing they’ve had their eye on. With the risk of online users mocking players for their lame beginners’ outfit, the cosmetic shopping system in Roblox can become more demanding than enticing.

 

Source: Roblox Blog

As Roblox primarily targets children under 12 as its audience, the leading concern for these players would be the presence of online groomers exposing themselves to players. ABC reported in 2017 the ‘virtual sex’ some users are conned into participating in by the occasional older player, indicating a fraction of the people these children may be vulnerable to.

With all of the online games available having been built by players themselves, there is no doubt users may stumble across something you’d rather they don’t see. Rectifying this, there are parental options for children, including having ‘friends’ only or ‘no one’ interacting with them in the chat, while accounts of individuals aged 13 or over have additional options to choose. If you’re looking to cushion your child’s play time, ‘account restrictions’ disable others from interacting with the account – definitely something to consider if your younger child is insistent on playing.

Despite these potential dangers, it is of course possible to stay safe when gaming online. Simply teaching your children the importance of being cautious when talking to people they don’t know can go a long way, especially in these virtual environments. Teach your kids to have fun while playing these games, but to play with their friends or people they know. And of course, make sure you regulate their play styles so they aren’t constantly glued to the screen. Kids need social lives, and not just virtual ones.

So our  big tips on all this? Communicate, don’t promote secretive behaviour (by communicating!!), know what your kids are doing & limit screen time!

Make sure to check out some of our other posts on how you can keep an eye on your child’s online activity & check out yomojo.com.au/familyeye for parental control solutions that will give you peace of mind.

 

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