XBOX security for children - how to enjoy safe online gaming
This morning an article was published in the Metro about child safety on XBox LIVE. You may have seen this and been concerned, so we've put together a guide on staying safe while using online gaming services. There are simple, easy steps you can take to prevent online predators from gaining access to you, or if you're a parent to help keep your child safe online.
What are the security risks of online multiplayer gaming?
Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network are worldwide online communities where gamers can meet (virtually), compare scores, share content and play multiplayer games over a server. You have total control over how much interaction you have with other gamers - whether to join in online matches, chat over headsets or exchange personal details (we recommend that you do not share any personal details, except for your first name, with anyone that you meet online.)
When you join the Xbox LIVE network you are assigned a gamer tag, which acts as your identification, so that other gamers can find you, see your high scores and arrange multiplayer matches with you. Potentially, anyone can see your gamer tag (your profile name) on XBox Live and send you a message requesting that you add them to your contacts, for the purpose of playing multiplayer games.
Normally, if another XBox Live subscriber sends you a message requesting that you add them, this is a perfectly innocent way of initiating Call of Duty matches or Mass Effect 3 team ups with another likeminded gamer. However it does leave an opening for predators to request access to children and begin a dialogue with them. The simple way to avoid this is not to accept any XBox Live contact requests unless you know the person who sends you the message personally, and have verifiable proof it is them. (See below for more information)
Parents: Help your kids use XBox LIVE safely
Of course the risk of online predators is not just limited to Xbox services, and any online service can be abused unless safeguards are in place – the safest way of all is to educate your children on the dangers of strangers, both in real life and on the internet.
Xbox Live actually comes built in with parental controls, which can allow you to help protect your children further from online predators or other unsavoury types.
Step 1 - educate your kids on the risks of online gaming
Kids tend to like playing games, watching TV, and going online and surfing the web – there’s nothing wrong with that! However, some websites, TV shows and online activities are not suitable for kids, and can be harmful.
Children may play multiplayer games with strangers, and that’s fine – but when they try to become friendly your child should always be wary, as not everyone has good intentions.
Here are our rules of engagement for children when gaming online:
- NEVER give out personal information – such as age, address, family information, or photos
- NEVER meet anyone in real life that you met on the internet without the presence of a parent or guardian
- NEVER trust an online stranger, especially ones who try to get personal information from you, or try to be critical of your family
- NEVER give intimate details or talk about personal topics online
Concerned about an individual's behaviour? Report it
If you do feel someone is acting in an inappropriate way, you can report them to Microsoft directly through this method. Microsoft themselves can then investigate and take appropriate action.
Been approached by a stranger? Confide in an adult you trust
If a stranger's behaviour makes you uncomfortable, or you find yourself in a situation you’re unsure of, you should ALWAYS tell an adult that you trust. This could be a parent, teacher, friend or a police officer. Don’t keep things to yourself, if you feel even a hint of unease, close everything down, move away from the screen, and TELL SOMEONE. You won’t get into trouble, and honestly really is the best policy.
Microsoft has a site with more guides for kids, at http://www.getgamesmart.com/kids/ .
Step 2: Create and control your child's XBox LIVE account
All online services from Microsoft need a LIVE account, so first of all, you as a parent should create one to be the master account. From within this, you can make either a Child (for ages 13 and under) or Teen (14-17) profile. You manage these accounts through your own, with a password that should never be shared with the kids.
Once this has been done, you can then restrict certain portions of what your child or teen can do online. For example, child accounts can be controlled so that the parent has to approve new friends (For example you could only add children you know in person, or have talked to yourself), and can block the video communication functions to either friends only or no one. Interaction with social networks and online status updates can also be restricted, for further privacy.
Make sure to check on your child's account regularly and raise any concerns with them.
Need further help? Microsoft has set up a website to help with online gaming security, which features a step-by-step guide to protecting yourself and your family. www.getgamesmart.com/tools/guide/xboxlive/
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