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Safe Online Gaming

Video game controllerOnline gaming has become a popular pastime on the internet. Because gamers invest large amounts of time and money in today’s sophisticated games, others see an opportunity for mischief or illicit profit. The risks of online games should be understood by anyone who enjoys them. These include the following:

  • risks from social interactions with strangers who may trick you into revealing personal or financial information
  • risks from computer intruders exploiting security vulnerabilities
  • risks from online and real-world predators
  • risks from viruses, Trojan horses, computer worms, and spyware

Gamers need to take precautions to reduce the chance of this fun activity being used to make them a victim.

A Few Tips

Keep a clean machine: All Internet-enabled devices need to be kept up-to-date to protect them from malware and other threats. Security protections are built in and updated on a regular basis. Take time to make sure all the mobile devices in your house have the latest protections. Before you start playing, be sure your computer/gaming system has the latest operating system, software - including anti-virus protection, web browsers and apps.

Use a strong password for your gaming accounts. Be sure your password has at least eight characters and uses numbers, letters, and symbols.

Never reveal your real name, location, gender, age, or any other personal information. Keep your user name vague.

Protect your identity. Do not use voice chat when playing an online game, unless there is a feature that allows you to disguise your voice. Do not use a web-cam while playing an online game. Do not present yourself as dating material.

Use an avatar rather than an actual picture of yourself.

Do not accept downloads from strangers. This includes cheat programs that may claim to help you perform better in the game, but really could be carrying malware.

Play together. Playing videogames with kids is a great way to understand gaming and watch their interests and development. A common interest also makes for great family discussions and casual conversations.

Ratings are helpful. Pay attention to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s videogame ratings, both the age rating (like E for Everyone, T for Teen and M for Mature) and content descriptors (like “Suggestive Themes,” “Language” or “Violence”).

Preview the game. If after checking the ratings, you’re still not sure if a game is appropriate, there are resources you can consult on the Internet, including Common Sense Media’s game reviews.

Tweak the safety settings. All handheld devices and game consoles have helpful safety settings. Use them.

Trash talk’s a reality. It may not be pretty, some of it could be abusive, but it’s not necessarily all bad. Just like there’s trash talk on the football field, it happens in games and virtual worlds, too. However, know what to do if being harassed online. Often players can block harassers or report them to the game’s publisher.

Consoles play more than games. Some videogame consoles can be used to watch DVDs, stream movies and other video content, surf the Web and communicate. Be aware of game devices’ capabilities and their built-in controls. When gaming connects to the Net and gamer communities, all regular online-safety rules should apply.

Additional gaming safety tips