Most parents have a love/hate relationship with their children playing video games. We love the enjoyment that our children derive from them, but we hate how addictive many of the games are and the resulting nagging from children to play these games.
Another cause for quarrel is the question about what is suitable content for each age group. As parents we need to be on the same page about what is age appropriate and what we will allow our kids to play. Last year’s theme across the College came from the bible verse Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things” This verse speaks to the importance of guarding our hearts and minds from those factors that corrupt our thinking and our attitudes.
Now there is a new development that adds another layer of complexity to many video games. Fortnite Battle Royale is the biggest game in the world at the moment and the perfect example of the unexpected dangers that can lurk behind internet based games of this sort.
Fortnite Battle Royale was released last year, is free to download and available on many devices. The goal is for players to stay alive for as long as possible while around 20 other players try to kill them and each other. The age recommendation is 13+ but this is often ignored.
Believe it or not, it is not the players trying to kill each other with guns and axes that presents the biggest danger.
The game is being exploited by scammers who try and steal information and money from the players. Even though the game is free, it has the usual purchasing options for upgrades and advantages using a currency called V-bucks. The scams are often distributed through YouTube and if you type in “Free V-bucks” on YouTube there will be approximately four million results! These videos usually direct players to another site with the enticement of free V-bucks.
Some of the scams are being conducted in game forums and chat rooms with scammers talking directly to players trying to trick them into giving information about themselves and their parents.
Another problem is that the voice chat tools within Fortnite can be used to contact players asking for personal information because anyone can get in touch with anyone else playing the game. This feature cannot be fully disabled and free V-bucks are so desirable by young players that there have been cases of them sneaking into mum’s purse to give license and credit card numbers in return for ‘free’ V-bucks.
Please talk to your children about this game in particular and all computer games. The benefits go way beyond preventing identity theft or credit card fraud.
- Set healthy boundaries and strategies. Ensure their homework is up to date before gaming is allowed and keep the time short so there is a good balance with exercise, outdoor play and ‘offline’ socialising.
- Keep smart devices and gaming consoles out of the bedroom. Keep them in the family room.
- Never use your credit card for your children to purchase online game accessories. If your child is old enough, consider getting them to purchase a Visa Debit card for kids and teach them how to budget by putting their pocket money on it. Once they run out they have to wait for the following week or offer to do extra jobs to earn money. Even with this safety feature be careful your child is not using all their pocket money for gaming. Balance is everything and games are set up to be addictive. What you allow your child depends upon your values and your child’s personality and maturity.
- Find out how to block and report before they start using the game. Make sure your children know never to respond if they get asked for any personal information such as where they live, age, etc.
- Stranger danger is real, and it is online 24 x 7. Make your children aware of this and emphasise how important it is for you to know who they are talking to online – especially if it is someone they don’t know in person i.e. from school or the neighbourhood. Roleplay possible scenarios with them and be as specific as your imagination allows. The online scammers are good at what they do and children have no idea how telling something like their address (for example) to someone online could be dangerous. Tell them to never, ever meet in person with someone they have met online.
- Play the game with your children first. Take time out of your busy day and sit and play games with your children before allowing them to play them on their own.
Mike Curtis, Principal