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Reduce the risks of gaming with strangers

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Fundamental safety tips for online gaming

55% of frequent gamers say that video games help them to stay close to and connect with their friends. However, those who play video games online may not realize the potential danger involved, particularly when playing with strangers. Thankfully, there are a number of smart ways that you can protect yourself online, which will allow you to have a safe and enjoyable experience while gaming. From creating boundaries to handling harassment properly, here’s what you need to know when it comes to having a safer social gaming experience.

‘Stranger danger’ — a concern for all ages

While “stranger danger” is a safety concept that is commonly taught to children, it’s important to realize that it applies to all ages, and especially when it comes to the internet. Potential dangers when gaming online with strangers include cyberbullying, hacking through webcams, and grooming by online predators. In fact, as many as one in five US teens who regularly use the internet admit to having received unwanted sexual solicitation online. Online gaming is unique, however, as it allows predators to cultivate a “shared experience” with their victims through the game itself, which in turn allows for a type of predatory bonding experience that can lead to exploitation.

Staying safe by creating strict boundaries

Creating and maintaining strict boundaries while online is perhaps one of the smartest things you can do to keep safe when gaming with others. This can be achieved by simply withholding sensitive information — such as passwords, your full legal name, and any other personal details that a stranger might use to their advantage. Aside from only playing online with friends you know in real life, one way that you can effectively maintain boundaries while gaming online with strangers is by always using a designated screen name instead of your real name, and refraining from giving much away on a publicly visible profile or in online chats. Your upcoming social plans (like vacations or trips away from home), your phone number, and your home address should also be kept confidential, as leaking them can easily put you and your family at risk of dangers like burglary.

Protecting yourself from malicious cyber threats is also vital in keeping your gaming equipment (such as your computer or console) safe from malware, and goes hand in hand with the social aspect of gaming. For instance, online group chats with other gamers can easily allow for malicious links to be shared inconspicuously. Examples of this type of threat include links to cheat mods, which could actually be carrying spyware or malware that can compromise your information. In order to protect yourself, never opening links from untrusted sources is always the best course of action. Keeping your gaming equipment and software up to date, and ensuring you have quality antivirus protection are additional steps that will aid in preventing any issues.

Handling harassment

When it comes to experiencing a “stranger danger” situation that involves harassment, it’s important to take action as quickly as possible. In order to be prepared, gamers of any age should be aware of the settings and resources available to them. For example, reporting and/or blocking others can help to protect you and other gamers safe by preventing further contact with the offender while notifying game moderators or support. Helpful features such as the option to display your active status, or the possibility of having a private profile, are other options that can be used to your advantage in keeping yourself safe from strangers.

Online gaming is quickly becoming ubiquitous among all ages. It’s a great source of entertainment and is wonderful for staying connected with friends, but it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers that can be lurking online as well. To protect against predators and hackers, maintaining boundaries and making use of features online are just a couple of smart ways to stay safe.

Photo by Fredrick Tendong on Unsplash

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