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The gaming world is a juggernaut and a massive way that children and teens spend their time. It is almost impossible to predict what the newest game/app/craze will be that takes the world by storm. Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Words with Friends! Who knows? All of these examples were MASSIVE and unfortunately for their creators many of these games have fallen out of favor amongst children and teens as the next generation of interactive gaming grows.
Now, when looking at the top ten most downloaded applications, 7 of the 10 fall under the 'Social Networking' category. What does that tell us? It tells us that children and teens love engaging with one another online and as a consequence there has been a rise in social networking within games. It's the norm now, and an obvious red flag for parents.
Below are three of the most popular current (this could change next week) games children are engaged in and spending a fair bit of time on. So let's us help you make sense each of these platforms with some key things to consider when deciding if your child is ready to play and engage in these online worlds.
What you need to know about Fortnite?
Fortnite is a survival action game and after watching the promo there is no wonder the kids love it. You are required to create complex forts to defend and protect yourself and team while fighting off a never ending wave of monsters. The game allows voice and on screen chat from other players, which lends itself to inappropriate language from "keyboard warriors". Because of the social networking aspect to this game, the opportunity to interact with strangers is high, which is always a concern. This is particularly prominent in the free to play multiplayer mode, called Battle Royale. This feature allows up to 100 players to fight against each other or in teams to be the last player standing. This does prompt a significant amounts of negative comments and trash talking within this feature is again much higher.
What parents need to know about Roblox?
Roblox is a creativity space that allows its users to design and build their own interactive games. You are also able to play other games in a multiplayer setting. Features within the site include a "safe-chat" mode for those under 13, as well as a parent login that lets you oversee your child's use of the site (we LOVE this feature). However, don’t let the "safe chat" title fool you, parents still need to be communicating with their children about connecting with people who they they've just met and don't know. As a blanket rule, children shouldn't be connecting and communicating with people online that they haven't met in real life before.
A conversation you must have with your kids when broaching these topics is to ask them directly what are the potential dangers that could occur through meeting a stranger online.
What parents need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft… what a game. Its popularity can't be questioned. It is so popular that education providers have now invested in the software to be used as an educational tool within classrooms because of its wide spread engagement amongst school aged children. But I digress, what do parents need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft is a 'virtual sandbox' that gives users everything that they need to explore a vast world, acquire resources, and create nearly everything they can possible imagine. Literally anything! Unfortunately this means that from time to time children playing may stumble across inappropriate content when exploring other random worlds. Another popular and unfortunate practice within the Minecraft world 'griefing'. This is where random users intentionally troll players through the destruction of engineered structures that they have made. It is the digital equivalent of knocking down somebodies sandcastle. Heartless I know, however it highlights the many negative outcomes associated with networking within digital worlds. As you can see the opportunity to interact and communicate with others does exists within Minecraft. Therefore children should be carefully and continually monitored while playing or even better disable and hide the chat feature.
Finally, with endless possibilities for creation within Minecraft, the time spent constructing "worlds' can take time. It's important to monitor the screen time and set limits on the usage to ensure children are getting adequate sleep as well as physical activity.
If a game that your child plays isn't on this list, then it is still highly likely that it will still include social networking features within the game play itself. Monitor and check how the game operates to ensure your child is enjoying it in a safe manner.
These games may be obsolete in 6 months time, so remember to continue checking in on what games your children are playing. Check the in-game content, themes and social networking features regularly.
The Cyber Safety Project are committed to staying current in this constantly changing digital world. These blog and vlog posts provide insight to families about new trends, potential dangers online and effective strategies to maintain safe and respectful digital behaviours for parents, children, schools and the wider community.