Online Gaming: Is This a Problem for My Child?

Liz Repking, Cyber Safety Consultant, BECO Ambassador

March 2021

This past week I had the privilege of spending three days in a school, working face to face with students from 4th through 8th grade. Although I have been working with students all fall via Zoom, there is something special about being in the classroom with them. The conversation is naturally more interactive. One question I love to start each session with is “where do you guys hang out online?” My objective is twofold: I want to tailor my talk to what they best relate to AND I always am looking to find any new trends both by gender and age. The most dominating answer I received over these three days was simple: Gaming, gaming, and more gaming. The specific grade did not seem to make a difference; there is a lot of online gaming happening with tweens and teens. It makes sense as they have a whole lot of time to fill these days!

As I thought about the high frequency of gaming in our kids’ lives, I thought about my own kids. I have a 22-, 19-, and 16-year-old. Over the last 10 years, we have purchased three gaming systems for the kids: Wii, Xbox, and Play Station. Of those three systems, only one currently remains in my home because both my sons have hijacked a system for use in their college apartments. Age does not seem to be a factor….4th grade to college, gaming is huge!

Obviously, there is a need, as parents, to deepen our knowledge on the gaming world. With that goal in mind, here is a quick FAQ to cover some information around this topic.

What devices are kids gaming on?

Anywhere and everywhere. Games can be played on iPads, mobile phones, iTouches, laptops, and gaming consoles. If the device allows access to the Internet, games can be played. Most games are either downloaded from the Internet, downloadable apps, or websites. Realize that if your child is gaming on a console, like Nintendo Switch, they can game with anyone, anywhere and not just the people in their physical space.

What are the most popular games?

There are lots. With younger elementary students, there seems to be a high frequency of Roblox, Minecraft, and the latest craze of Among Us. As kids get a little older, they are moving to more sophisticated games: Fortnite Battle Royal, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, League of Legends as well as EA Sports games like Fifa, Madden NFL, and NBA 2K.

Are there any upsides to gaming?

Of course! When the games are used with balance and moderation, there are benefits. First, online gaming provides a line of connection for kids to hang out with their friends and do what they enjoy. This has been a huge benefit during the pandemic, especially for kids that do not have access or an interest in social media. Additionally, most of the games require strategic thinking and creativity, think Minecraft. Other games require collaboration skills. Players will survive longer and progress farther if they can work with others.

Are there downsides of gaming?

There are downsides, but many of these downsides come into play depending on the game content and the amount of time spent playing. It is important to consider the personality of your child when thinking through the dangers. Addiction or excessive play time is a common problem; once they start playing, it could be hard to stop and even harder to find another activity as interesting or stimulating as the online game. Another concern is isolation. While gaming can be a good source of connection to friends, it can also lead to physical isolation in the home. The presence of online predators is far more common than most parents realize. Predators go where kids are and especially where parents are not. Online bullying is another real concern. The culture of this world promotes ‘trash talking’ in the words of students, that can very quickly cross the line into online harassment. As you move into the genre of first shooter games, exposure to violence, which, for some kids, has shown to lead to increased aggression.

You mentioned the presence of predators. How does that work?

As I mentioned above, predators go where kids are unsupervised. This is the online gaming world. It represents the greatest disconnect from parental knowledge to where kids spend time. The more time they spend, the more opportunity for a predator. That is the first part of the predator equation. The second part of the equation is an opportunity to groom or build a relationship with the child. Online gaming provides a perfect environment, especially with games that require teamwork. The predator can easily build a ‘partnership’ with the child which will lead to trust and friendship. When a predator can establish these things, it opens the door to the predator.

My kid loves to game. I’m not sure I can eliminate this. What suggestions do you have for safely gaming?

I understand your situation as my kids are the same! There are things you can definitely do to reduce your child’s vulnerability. It starts with you! Understand what games they are playing and what the dangers are with that game. Understand the age rating for the game (they all have age ratings). Read reviews and google questions like Is Fortnite safe for kids? You can also consult other sites like Common Sense Media which offers reviews of every game. Here are a few other suggestions:

    • Game as a family
    • Keep gaming devices in shared family space
    • Avoid the use of headphones for games where voice communication is involved
    • Set time limits
    • Use the built-in parental controls that the device has – here is an article that will walk you through the settings by console)


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Gaming is a topic that has tremendous breadth and depth. It is one of the trickier aspects of parenting around technology. If you feel overwhelmed or intimidated, another option is asking your child to show you how it works. This may provide you with a pathway to effective conversation with them. Continue to dig in and don’t give up. Let me leave you with an inspirational quote I find quite appropriate: “It will be hard, but it’ll be the right kind of hard!”

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