Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Hosted by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this year marks the 25th anniversary. To celebrate this event, and introduce an important topic for the coming holiday season, we’ll be discussing how online gaming can impact an individual’s security and data privacy.
The Popularity of Gaming
Let’s look at what’s trending in the gaming industry:
The video gaming industry is currently worth $78+ billion dollars a year.
Across the globe, there are over 2.5 billion gamers that play regularly.
In 2017, there were 192.2 million gamers using their mobile device.
Fortnite is proof free downloadable games are here to stay- 125+ million free downloads.
Streaming is a thing: AKA watching another streamer play their game live.
Reference: “Video Game Statistics”, WEPC
Online Gaming Can Be Risky
A gamer will likely be engaging in a number of activities that could be harmful to their development and information.
Downloading increases your risk of encountering a scam from an untrusted source or fake website. Help your child download the games from the device store, app store, or developer’s website. It’s also important that you warn your children about the in-game content scams and fake downloads that exist to spread malware or install viruses.
While playing online games, your child could be exposed to violence, adult content, and or inappropriate language. Although all games come with ESRB content ratings that set age requirements, not all players or parents follow them strictly. Despite the age requirements, children as young as 8 years old regularly play Fortnite Battle Royal which is rated T-Teen for individuals 13+. The game contains violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language, and unmonitored user interaction.
Streaming is increasingly popular, especially among young gamers. Using YouTube and Twitch, game enthusiasts can watch and even interact with a popular streamer such as Ninja, Shroud, or SCO. However, because this content isn’t monitored for quality or policed for explicit content, some streams could be unsuitable for young viewers.
How popular is streaming?
- Individuals aged 13-24 watch 12.1 hours of video per week on YouTube, social media and other free online sources
- The popularity of streaming/watching a live stream via the Internet has increased rapidly, causing a record number of cable subscription cancellations.
While viewing a stream or recorded video, individuals could encounter cheating strategies or “free-content” scams. YouTube scams have become increasingly prominent. Untrustworthy individuals could be leading viewers to a trap where they may willingly or unwillingly share in-game content, money, or personally identifiable information. Warn your children about these scams, and advise them to avoid cheating strategies or videos that instruct them to share personal information in exchange for in-game content.
Gaming Safety and Parental Control Tips for Parents
Practice Safe Downloading
As mentioned, only download from trusted developers and app stores- some gaming consoles and developers will email you a link with an attachment to the content.
Set Rules and Enforce Them
When in doubt, blame the developer and enforce the ESRB content rating and age requirements. While your child is in the home try limiting screen-time and enforcing the rules as a family.
Enable Parental Control Settings and 3rd Party Services
Always be the first to open and set up an Internet-connected device. At this time you can enable advanced privacy and security features, set a master password, and install a parental control monitoring app. Conveniently, Netsanity designed a comprehensive parental control application that’s available on all Apple iOS and Android mobile devices
Keep Device, Router, and Anti-Virus Software Up-To-Date
Your devices and software are frequently pushed updates designed to address critical vulnerabilities and bugs.
Take care of your Internet-connected devices. Most devices allow users to enable and schedule automatic updates. Keeping your device updated ensures your device is secure. However, don’t just rely on device updates; antivirus software is recommended on all connected devices to defend against cyber attacks.
Your home router, for example, requires a different approach. You should always customize the default admin settings and regularly update the router’s firmware.
Be Aware of Potential Scams
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Teach your children that nothing good is ever free. In fact, thieves are targeting vulnerable individuals by luring them to instructional videos explaining how to earn free in-game content. Fortnite players specifically are facing V Buck scams, where fake tutorials and websites trick gamers into willfully handing over personal information, gaming credentials, and financial information.
The Netsanity Difference
Loaded with a number of popular features, Netsanity, allows parents to block, limit, and monitor access to devices, apps, online games, and websites. With one simple click, you disable their device or schedule recurring data timeouts. The holiday season and tech sales go hand-in-hand, however, if you’ve never used parental control software, this time of year can be a nightmare. Has your child been naughty this year? If so, start your free 14-day trial of Netsanity and tell them you’ll be watching. It’s as easy as installing the app on their favorite device then customize the restriction settings based on their activity– you’ll wonder how you ever parented without it.
You should always be striving to educate yourself and children about the risks and responsibilities associated with Internet use and online gaming. Below, we included some additional resources you may find helpful when considering, implementing, or enforcing parental controls and screen-free rules.