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What is the difference between traditional console gaming and newer online gaming?

Console gaming:

  • Requires the purchase of a gaming console like Microsoft’s X-Box or Nintendo’s Wii.
  • Has to be hooked up to a television set.
  • Requires the purchase of individual games from an actual store.
  • If you have multiple controllers, your child can play with several friends at once, either cooperating together or playing against one another.
  • New gaming consoles are created every couple of years, so you might run the risk of your child wanting each new console that comes to stores.
  • May have greater parental controls than online gaming.

Online gaming:

  • Requires a personal computer or laptop with certain gaming capabilities (such as a lot of memory or an ultra-fast processor).
  • On the plus side, once you own the computer, you won’t have to upgrade to new gaming consoles.
  • Often requires a subscription to each individual game.
  • Games are downloaded straight from the internet.  
  • Can sometimes offer extender packs for a fee to make the game broader or longer.
  • Because these games are offered through the Internet, your child could be playing along with anywhere from one other person to thousands of other people, like in the multi-player role playing game World of Warcraft.
  • Parental controls exist for these types of games, but there are definitely some more safety concerns with online gaming.

What are some additional concerns and safeguards that come with online gaming?

To start, when we talk about online gaming here, we do not mean the kinds of software you can purchase and download on your computer in which your child plays single player, educational games. We also do not mean games found on credible websites, such as Dora the Explorer on the Nickelodeon website nickjr.com.  These kinds of games often have no real-time opponents or your child can play “against” the computer itself.  

When we talk about possible threats to your child’s safety or wellbeing, we mostly mean real-time, online, multiplayer games. There are quite a few additional concerns you should be aware of if your child is playing these types of games. Just like the social networking websites that can link your child to thousands of strangers worldwide, online multiplayer video gaming has the potential to introduce your child to gamers from all walks of life. 

In some ways, this can be a positive experience, in that they learn about people who share their gaming interest but may be different from them in a variety of ways. 

The dangerous part arises if and when your child comes in contact with inappropriate gamers who may:

  • Use profanity in the chat rooms that often accompany multiplayer games.
  • Make sexually suggestive comments.
  • Insult your child directly, calling him or her derogatory slang terms, (some of which are specific to the world of gaming, such as “noob”).
  • Try to get personal information from your child, like last names or addresses.
  • Create scams and try to get your child to offer up your credit card information.
  • Try to send personal and inappropriate photos or links to inappropriate websites.

All of these possibilities might be enough to make you want to ban these types of online games altogether! But take heart- although these concerns are important to remember, numerous parental controls and tips exist so that you can ensure your child stays safe while having fun. 

Please take a peek at the article “Do video games have parental controls?” for detailed information on how to set up parental controls and better monitor what and with whom your child is playing.