Protect your Child from Online Predators

My name is Robyn Flint and I am a mental health professional. I've worked for several years with children and youth who have trauma histories or who have behavioral issues in the school setting, in foster care. So I have seen quite a few kiddos come and go and have seen the lasting impacts that video gaming and social media have made on clients.

So what I thought I would do is come and share with you some tips for safeguarding your children and keeping them safe from online predators and from becoming just addicted to video games. Oftentimes now, we see parents who are using gaming systems and social media as childcare.

Children are coming home from school and instead of doing homework, they're instantly going to their gaming systems and turning them on. And then they enter their own little world because those video gaming systems have chat rooms.

So whether they're on their X-Box or PlayStation, or whether they're on their computer, there are people from anywhere in the world on there talking with them. And you may think that your child is safe because they're at home with you. But the reality is that they're not.

Children nowadays, especially those with trauma histories or who have experienced neglect or any kind of abuse, they are susceptible to falling victim to online predators. And that's one of the dangers that video gaming and social media pose to our children and our youth. That's not to mention any addictive qualities that gaming can have on our children.

The main issue nowadays is time. Gaming systems are not all bad and spending time playing your favorite game is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's the amount of time that children are being allowed to be on these gaming systems, that is the problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of times children are having some sort of emotional need being met by these online gaming chat rooms, or even just being on the games themselves. It's an escape. It's a way to make friends where maybe at school, they don't have many friends or in their neighborhood, they don't have many friends.

But once they get online and they're talking to all of these people anywhere in the world, then all of a sudden they feel like they're a part of something or they're one with friends, or they can feel a little bit popular, or it's like a world where they feel accepted. So this can be a problem, especially as parents if you start to notice that gaming has taken over our social media has taken over and your children are too into it, by then, the damage could already be done.

There are addictive qualities to it. If you notice that children are staying up or your child is staying up to all hours of the night, or if your child is being allowed to stay up all hours of the night, even on a weekend night, on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. If your child is being allowed to stay up till one, two, three, o'clock in the morning to play video games, that's not a really productive use of time, I should say.

It is dangerous because you don't know after hours, who is on there talking with your child. Parents need to remember a few things. Remember that you should be monitoring your child's use of video games, on social media. And that's more than just knowing their passwords, which you should know their passwords.

And you should be open and honest with the child and let them know you're going to follow behind them and you're going to be checking in on them to see what kind of activities they're getting into online.

But more than that, it is not just knowing the password, but knowing who they're speaking with, knowing what games they're playing, knowing who they're playing with, who they're talking to. And if it becomes a problem, then at that point, I would suggest taking away the headphones where they're listening and being able to talk to other people online and just let them play.

Now, that's not going to protect them 100% because people can type in those games and in those game rooms. So even if they're not hearing what people are saying, they can certainly still have the ability to talk to them. One of the biggest things that I would say is along with time, comes scheduling time for them to play those games.

Spare your children from online addiction

Even if you limit it to it an hour, a day, an hour, based on their age, of course, an hour a week, maybe make it earned. So in other words, their grades need to be acceptable to you and not only their grades but their chores need to be done. Hopefully, your child has chores or ways that they need to participate in the family and then encourage them to get back outside.

Back in my day, we didn't have video games, we played outside. So encourage your child to do something active and do sports of some sort, go outside, ride a bike, jump on a trampoline, something to get exercise. All of those things are very important to a growing child.

Gaming can impact your child's academics in a very negative way. I have seen children in the school system who have managed to sneak their cell phones during the school day and will be playing their game on their cell phones. And if they get caught, I've seen them have tantrum-like behavior. And this is middle school. This is not elementary.

I've seen them have all-out temper tantrums in the classroom disrupting their class, their fellow students and teachers, and principals when a couple of them have had to been removed from classes. So gaming is a danger in many ways, and not only can it impact their grades, but it impacts their behavior in the school.

I would highly suggest that as parents, you are monitoring their time, that they're being able to use it, monitor, who they're being able to use it with, who they're talking with on the other end, and then maybe play the game with them so that you get an idea of what it is that the game is teaching your child.

There's some out there I've seen kids in elementary school playing, some games that depict violent acts, that depict murder, that depict racism, that depict derogatory behavior towards women and parents are fine with that. And I just think that at that point, if that's what you're teaching your child, then you can't be too confused when your child starts exhibiting some problematic behaviors because they're playing it every day on their video games.

So kids need a place to belong and the place that they need to belong is within a family, it is not on a video game or in a chat room. It is to be a part of a family unit that will love and encourage them and is accepting of them as opposed to strangers that they may never see face to face, but all they do is hear them in their ear. That's a problem.

o for overall mental health, it is extremely important that as parents, you take this seriously and really consider monitoring the use every time they get on the computer, no matter what they're doing. If they're in a chat room, if they're playing a game, if they're on social media, if they're doing their homework, whatever the case may be, you should be monitoring their use.

I hope this is helpful to you. And I hope this brings light to the problem that is plaguing our kids nowadays. And if you have any questions, talk to your child's teachers, get an update on their behaviors in class, talk to a counselor, or just unplug the game system and take it away. Thanks.

Check more of this series here:

Kids need to belong to a place and that is within a family, it is not on a video game.

Key Takeaways:

The amount of time that children spend gaming can be a problem.
Gaming can impact your child's academics in a very negative way.
Monitor their electronics time

Children and Electronics with Robyn Flint

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