Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

The arrival of technology has transformed the way all of us engage with entertainment. We can explore amazing things on internet and connect with friends from all over the world. However, just as you are reminded in the real world that ‘stranger danger’ exists, the same caution applies to the online world.

The individuals you encounter online could be anyone — an adult, someone from your age group, or even a younger person, each presenting potential risks. You might have come across them through a game you played, a friend of a friend, an acquaintance of your friend, or simply someone who caught your interest for the first time.

I’m not saying that you alone can make mistakes or misjudge people; anyone can misjudge others. The issue arises when someone appears trustworthy and then extracts your personal information without you even realising it, and uses it for malicious purposes. This is where we all need to be extra careful.

Online games are developed in a way that people become addicted and can’t stop playing. So, let’s discuss the potential hazards while playing online games, how to avoid them, stay safe even among strangers, and how you can create a balance between your real and online gaming worlds.

Strategies for protecting personal information online: Your personal information is like a key to your bedroom door. Of course, you keep it somewhere safe and don’t share it with strangers or someone from outside. This key is your info, which includes your full name, address, phone number, school name, information about your family, and anything else that can identify you. Keep it under wraps and don’t share it with someone you met through an online platform.

Creating strong passwords: A strong password is like a super lock for your online accounts. Use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols to create a unique code that only you know. And remember, never share your password, not even with your closest sidekicks! Also, the numbers you add should not be your birthdate or any date that you celebrate, because it is easy for anyone to guess.

The world of online games: When you start an online game, making friends is normal on that platform, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they say they are. Stick to playing with people you know in real life, and if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a trusted adult about it immediately.

In-game chats: Lots of games have chat features to talk to other players, who can be from anywhere in the world, with varied backgrounds and natures. While chatting can be fun, don’t build trust immediately, just consider them just your game buddies and nothing else. If necessary, use pseudonyms or gaming aliases to protect your identity.

In-game purchases: Most games demand that to advance in the game or buy cool stuff, gear and gadgets (in the game), you need real money, though credit cards.

These are clever tactics to lure you deep into the game to buy useless stuff to proceed further. Remember kids, your parents’ hard-earned cash for the sake of games is not only a waste of money, but also disregarding your parents’ hard-earned cash.

Avoid gaming addiction: Virtual games are designed in a way that makes you play a lot, and sometimes, it becomes an addiction. What starts as a fun hobby can take up so much time that important things like homework and other things get ignored. If grades drop and you lose interest in real-world stuff, it might mean you’re addicted to online gaming.

Another problem is becoming more interested in games than in real-life friends. Soon you start to feel lonely, moody and are easily frustrated. If you feel like the above or notice your friend or sibling acting this way because of games, tell your parents so they can set reasonable rules. It’s important to have specific times for gaming.

Inappropriate content: Some online games may contain explicit language, violence or other inappropriate content. It is advisable to not play such games or get permission before going online. Exposure to violent or inappropriate content can have a profound impact on your emotional and psychological well-being. It may lead to increased aggression, insensitivity to violence and the development of negative behaviour.

Moreover, engaging in games with explicit content can become a significant distraction, affecting your academic performance. If you think that nobody will ever know which game you are playing, remember your behaviour and language speaks about you.

Keep your parents involved: Keep your parents informed about the gaming communities you are part of because your parents know when and how to take things in their control. They are the superheroes in disguise, they’ll keep the villains away from your life.

Apart from that, take a few minutes along with your parents to explore privacy settings on the gaming platform to help you control who can interact with you and keep your gaming experience safe and enjoyable.

Safeguarding your online presence is essential in today’s world. By staying informed, adopting secure practices and being vigilant, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with online activities.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 25th, 2023

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