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As any parent knows, home video games have long been a favorite pastime for young people. Now, the Internet has taken video games to a whole new level. Today's video game systems use home Internet connections to connect a user to other players all over the world. This feature enables users to compete live against people who are at other locations. A child, for example, can now play a video game live against his or her friend without either of them having to leave their homes.
In addition to video game systems, many Web sites offer interactive games. Electronic versions of traditional games - such as chess or checkers - allow players to compete against the computer or other players online.
While children are attracted to interactive video games, high-tech game playing can also pose risks. Individuals engaged in interactive game playing have the ability to chat with each other while they play, or "game chat." This means children playing games online are more likely to be contacted by strangers - individuals they don't know personally but whom they may feel comfortable with simply because of their game-playing relationship.
Pedophiles and other predators often play interactive games and surf the Internet simply to find potential targets. To initiate contact with a child, a predator might pose as another kid. This can be done easily because some video game systems allow players to mask their voice to conceal their identity.
Another area of concern for parents is game content. Many games are inappropriate for children. Games dealing with sex, violence, crime, and destruction can be purchased at local stores or downloaded online. Parents should monitor the kinds of games their children play.
Parents can safeguard their children's online gaming by doing the following:
- Monitor your children while they play interactive video games or games on interactive Web sites.
- If your children are playing interactively with someone online, find out with whom they are playing.
- Strongly consider restricting your children from playing games with anyone they do not know in person.
- Monitor game chats and Instant Messages received from others while your children are playing games online.
- Make sure your children understand never to give out personal information about themselves or anyone in their family.
- Educate yourself about the kinds of games available. Like movies, games have ratings. Pay attention to the game ratings of each game your child uses to make sure the content is appropriate.
- Keep the video gaming system or computer in a common area that can be easily monitored.
- Play your children's video games with them to become familiar with their content and the kinds of game chats and other interactions they engage in with other players.
- Set rules and limit the amount of time your child spends online playing games.