Our kids have adopted mobile devices faster than we can blink but just because they understand how to work these devices doesn’t mean they know everything. One of the most popular things for kids to do on smartphones and tablets is to play games. You may not have to teach them how to actually play the game, but you still need to know what to teach them about being safe and responsible with mobile gaming.
As part of my role as a Verizon #VZWBuzz Ambassador I share a lot about mobile gaming, usually though it is sharing fun games. However, I think it is important for me to share this side of mobile gaming as well.
What Parents Should Know About
- Inappropriate Content
This is one of the biggest challenges. A quick browser of any app store will yield a ton of “games” that really are what most of us would consider inappropriate for our kids, tweens, and teens. However, since all of us have our own values you cannot just easily categorize what is or is not offensive to you. This is why it is important to keep conversations going with your kids to let them know what you find acceptable, see what games they have downloaded, and talk about why you may not want them to have some of those games.
- Hidden Apps
Generally these hidden apps are not on the primary app stores but instead are offered at other sources. These games and apps appear to be one thing that is innocuous like weather, but in reality once you open the app and get past a main screen you get to the real content. Many of these are sex related.
- Security Threats
Kids can be notoriously laze about security on their devices. Many feel they make their devices to slow or it is just a pain to take the time to have good passwords or lock measures. Because of this kids are targeted by hackers. Games that are challenging may have sites that say they offer cheats for the game but instead they end up being hacked. This applies to non-mobile devices as well.
- Chat Dangers
Many mobile games offer in game chat. While much of the chat will be about the game or general chit chat, there is also a lot of unfavorable language and even predators who take advantage of in game chat areas.
- In-App Purchases
Games may be free to download and play to some extent, but then they offer in-app purchases to get more points, spins, lives, characters, etc. These can add up quickly for kids of all ages. For the younger kids, many will not even understand that this is real money – they just think it is all part of the game.
- Gaming Addiction
This really is an actual problem. It doesn’t mean that every kid who plays mobile games a lot is addicted, but it can happen.
Tips To Help Avoid These Problems
Just like every part of parenting, keeping the lines of communication open is key. Having conversations on a regular basis with your kids about their mobile gaming will help them understand and learn. Be sure not to just lecture them though, it really needs to be a two-way conversation.
- Game With Your Kids
Play some of the same games your kids do. This gives you a way to talk about the games and also for you to see what really happens during game play.
- Use Parental Controls
As appropriate for their ages, use the parental control settings on mobile devices and on internet connections. This also includes setting limits that can be spent on app purchases and in-app purchases.
- Use Real Life Situations to Teach
We all see stories online and on TV in the news about real life situations that happened that have put people in danger from mobile devices. When you see these be sure to share them with your kids and use as a teachable moment. Show how it really happens. Do not be afraid to share with your kids if you are scammed or make a mistake that causes a problem either – they need to know that it can happen to anyone.
- Help Them Put Down the Device
Have rules for the entire family on when devices have to be put down. Mealtime is a great time to make sure everyone is unplugged. You should also have a set time that phones and tablets have to be off at night before bed. Plan activities with your kids that are not based around the devices either.
The explosion of mobile devices and games can be overwhelming for parents but it is important that we recognize that it is a huge part of most of our lives now. It is our job to help our children learn to be safe and responsible as they use their smartphones and tablets.
Have you had a problem with your child and mobile gaming? Do you have any tips or advice to share with others on this topic?