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The internet has created a growing culture of online gaming, especially among children. The latest generation of youngsters has grown up with the internet at their fingertips, and the ability to interact with people online is more common than ever. You may think your kid is smart enough to avoid harmful people, but even the most knowledgeable minors are getting set up by adult predators online. Hancock Health has plenty of tips to help you set your children up for success in their online interactions. 

When talking about it doesn’t work.

Your first instinct may be to talk to your kids about the dangers of sharing their information online. However, when predators can so easily hide behind a different identity in the online sphere, this may be impossible for your child to navigate. If your child enjoys Roblox, they are most likely chatting with others as they play. Most of these other users are only identified through a made-up avatar and username. Anything else the child knows, such as age or location, is easy to lie about.

What’s a parent to do?

You might wonder if you should ever let your child play online games when it is so easy for people with bad intentions to lie about themselves. While this choice is one that should be your family’s personal decision, it is extremely difficult to pull kids away from something their peers are so invested in. Here are some ways to mitigate the threat of online predators:

Know the signs. Predators will often groom children into trusting them. They will claim shared interests, pretend they are your child’s age, and like or comment on their posts. After gaining trust, they will ask your child about caregivers and their home situation. 

Educate yourself. As a parent, you want to be knowledgeable about websites, software, social media, games, and chatting apps. You may even want to hop on your child’s game from time to time. This doesn’t have to be invasive; It can create a bonding opportunity in which you can view your child’s interests while getting a sense of who they are encountering.

Communication is key. Keep an honest and open continuing dialogue with your kids. Knowing their interests and experiences will only help you to support them. Talk to them about what it might look like if an online predator were to approach them, keeping in mind age-sensitive language. Stress the importance of online safety.

Set boundaries. You children are just that: children. Set age-appropriate boundaries for them so that they can remain safe while gaming online or visiting their favorite websites. If you allow your children to have a social media account, you should also take time to check their profiles periodically to ensure their continued safety. Have conversations about what is appropriate to say and share on various online platforms. Make firm rules about who your children are allowed to speak to on the phone and, especially, who they can meet up with in person. 

Report threats. If you and your child do encounter an online predator, report that threat immediately to the gaming platform, website, and proper authorities.

Online predators are crafty in how they can trick children. It is certainly a scary concept for parents, but unless we face the threat and educate ourselves, we won’t be able to help our children understand the importance of protecting themselves online.

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