In today’s world there are all kind of dangers that lurk around every corner. Many parents may not be aware of the potential dangers lurking within their homes. When I was younger, times where simpler. Children spent their afternoons and weekends playing outside with their friends. Children did not want to be cooped up inside. The art of building forts and making mud pies has fell to the way side. Most children, now a days would rather be inside playing on their computers, tablets, or phones. Online gaming has taken the nation by storm. Some of the most popular games are World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto, and Skyrim; all of these online games can be played with others from all over the world.
Children can play these games with their friends or complete strangers. Danger lies in becoming whomever they want to be. They can be a 40-year-old man pretending to be a 12-year-old boy from Tucson; able to gain the trust of the children they are playing with by building bonds and friendships. Sharing similar interests with victims to lure them in. We educate as to stranger danger, encouraging disengagement from those we do not know. This seems to all disappear when our children are playing online games. Here in Southwest Florida, a man was arrested for human trafficking along with six other adults in connection with the disappearance of two teenage boys. The boys were recused from a trailer in St. Petersburg FL, where they had been held captive for nearly a year being both sexually and physically abused. These teen boys were victims of an online gaming app. Not only are these boys going to have physical scars, but the emotional scars will be tremendous. Through family support and help of professionals such as doctors and therapists, these boys can begin their journey of healing.
The American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders also known as the DSM-5 (published in 2013) is the manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose clients with mental health disorders. Although, gaming disorder is not yet recognized in the DSM-5 as a mental health disorder, it is recognized that further research is needed. If not monitored by parents, online gaming can start to become an addiction due to compulsive playing. Children/teens start to isolate themselves from others and are missing out on important socialization skills. Studies have shown that isolation from others can lead to mental health disorders such as depression. Compulsive involvement in these games can cause confusion with reality-based thinking. This reality confusion can also influence feeling and bonds with others.
Online gaming enables children/teens to hide behind masks. They can become someone they are not. Creation of fake personas has led to an increase of online bullying. When we were younger, we may have gotten bullied at school or on the bus, but it ended there. Within the world of technology, bullying can be endless and come from all directions.
Some things we can do as parents to keep our children safe while online gaming is:
Limit screen time
Know what games your children are playing
Be aware of who they are interacting with on the game
Make sure games are age appropriate
Online gaming isn’t all scary. It can be fun, educational, and a good emotional outlet for our children when done in moderation.