Get Your Game On! (Safely)

by Amy Madsen on September 1, 2008 - 2:36pm

QUEST Vol. 15, No. 5

Online gaming can open a whole new world of fun, and potential danger. Follow these tips to keep you and/or your children safe. Also, read on to view this year's picks of Halloween costumes.

  • You easily throw around terms like MMOG, MMORPG, MMOFPS and MMORTS. (Massively multiplayer online game, role-playing game, first-person shooter and real-time strategy, respectively.)

  • You play online games such as RuneScape, Star Wars Galaxies, Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft.

  • You chat so much over the Internet you sometimes find yourself saying LOL when you actually meant to laugh out loud.

If yes, then the next question is: Do you know how to stay safe on the Internet?

The last thing anyone wants is to be harassed — or worse, in danger — when all they’re trying to do is have fun playing games or chatting online. These simple practices and precautions can reduce the risk.

Take care in all online adventures not to give out personal information: name, age, gender, phone number, address or anything else that might give others the means to single you out or to find you in the “real world.”

Don’t make personal information a part of screennames, usernames and other online identifiers. Names like johnnysmith1998 or sarahinchicago give others an opening to press for more information.

Keep passwords secret. If others log into your accounts they may change settings, use the account for their own purposes and gain access to your personal information.

Remember that posting photos or information online about involvement in any illegal activity may hurt your chances for jobs or other opportunities in the future.

Never agree to meet someone you’ve talked with online without taking precautions like talking to your parents, arranging to meet in a public place, and taking another person along with you.

Tell your parents about the online sites you’re visiting, games you’re playing and with whom you’re talking or playing. Always make them aware of anything that “doesn’t feel right,” or that makes you uncomfortable, including cyber-bullying, threats, obscene language or inappropriate content.

Gaming particulars

Games and game systems have different options and procedures for dealing with inappropriate behavior. Take time to learn how to ignore or block other gamers whose behavior makes you uncomfortable.

Play on sites that have a reputation for enforcing their rules and Terms of Service. Know and follow the rules, and report those who don’t.

Don’t put up with inappropriate behavior. Leave the online area — quit the game, if necessary — and play in another one or play another game.

If you use voice chat, consider disguising your voice with voice masking that conceals your age and gender. Keep in mind others can use this feature too.

Create a private league or world in order to limit your games to include reallife friends and people you know.

Some games provide profanity filters that replace profane or “dirty” words with asterisks (*) or ampersands (&).

Remember that in many cases cyber-bullies are looking for a reaction. Using their own strategies against them will only encourage them to continue their inappropriate behavior, and may result in you getting labeled or identified as a bully too.

The Internet-real world connection

Keeping safe is a matter of staying smart and being aware. Of course, real danger comes from real people in the real world. But the Internet can serve as a portal to let these people into your life. Block them online so you won’t be forced to find ways of blocking them in the real world.

Parents: Familiarize yourself with your child’s gaming interests and use system parental controls to govern game time. Most importantly, communicate with your children about their online activities. Encourage them to share their concerns and reassure them that if they come to you you’ll work with them to find a solution to their problem that doesn’t include banning them from the Internet altogether.

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