Not allowing in-game purchases without parental consent, avoiding credit or debit cards registration on apps for subscriptions, using screen name (avatar) that does not reveal their real name and installing internet gateway at home with features like monitoring, logging and controlling the types of content that the children can access, are among the do's and don’ts listed in the Ministry of Education’s advisory on safe online gaming.
Noting that closure of schools due to COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of mobile and internet by children and ultimately online gaming addiction, the advisory for parents and teachers on 'Chidlren’s safe online gaming' has been issued by MoE to enable parents and teachers in educating them for necessary action, ensuring effective use in overcoming all online gaming downsides with the associated mental and physical stress to children.
"Playing games leads to a serious gaming addiction which has been considered as a gaming disorder. The game is designed in a way that each level is more complicated and complex than the previous one. This causes a player to push themselves to the limit in order to progress in the game.
"Therefore, playing online games with no restriction and self-limits leads many players to become addicted and are eventually diagnosed with gaming disorder. The gaming companies also emotionally compel the child to buy more levels and almost force in-app purchases,” the advisory noted.
Not allowing in-game purchases without parental consent, adopting OTP based payment methods as per RBI’s guidelines, avoiding credit and debit cards registration on apps for subscriptions, placing an upper limit on expenditure per transaction, not letting children buy directly from laptop or mobile they use for gaming, are among the 'don’ts' listed in the advisory.
"Children should be advised not to download software and games from unknown websites. They should be told to be beware of clicking links, images and pop-ups in websites as they may contain virus and harm the computer, and may contain age-inappropriate content,” the advisory recommended.
"Children should be counselled to not give personal information over the Internet while downloading games or making gaming profiles. Advise them not to communicate with strangers, including adults, through web cam, private messaging or online chat, as it increases the risk of contact from online abusers, or bullying from other players,” it said.
The advisory also recommended that children should be advised against engaging in game for long hours without taking a break, considering health aspects and addiction. “Children should be told that while playing online games, if something wrong happens, stop immediately and take a screenshot (using the ‘print screen’ button on the keyboard) and report it. Help your child to protect their privacy online, get them to use a screen name (avatar) that does not reveal their real name,” are the 'do's' recommended in the MoE advisory.
“Use antivirus and spyware programs and configure web browsers securely using firewall. Activate parental controls and safety features on the device or in the app or browser as it helps restrict access to certain content and limit spending on in-game purchases,” it said.
Checking the age rating of any games your child is playing, always ensuring that your child accesses internet from a computer placed in the family and asking children to notify a stranger tries to start a conversation about something inappropriate or requests personal information have been advised.
“In case of bullying, encourage not to respond and keep a record of the harassing messages and report the behaviour to the game site administrator and block, mute or ‘unfriend’ that person from their players list, or turn off the in-game chat function.
“Play alongside your child to get a better sense of how they are handling their personal information and who they are communicating with. Help your child understand that some features in online games are used to encourage more play and spending. Talk to them about gambling, what it is and its consequences both online and in the physical world,” it said.
The advisory also suggested parents and teachers to keep their eyes open for unusually secretive behaviour mostly related to their online activity, sudden increase in the time they spend online especially social media, if they seem to change screens on their device when approached, they become withdrawn or angry, after using the internet or sending text messages and their device suddenly has many new phone numbers and e-mail contacts.
“Install internet gateway at home which has features like monitoring, logging and controlling the types of content that the children can access. Teachers need to keep an eye on falling grades and social behaviour of the students. If teachers observe something that may seem suspicious or alarming, they should inform the school authorities immediately.
“Teachers should ensure that children are sensitised about the pros and cons of the internet from time to time. Teachers should train students for secure configuration of web browsers and web applications,” the advisory added.
-With PTI Inputs