Virtual Friends

The question “Do you know who your kids are playing with?” takes on a whole new meaning to parents today compared with parents of 30 years ago. My parents could just look out the front window or head to the neighborhood park and answer those questions because of who we were with. They took us to “play dates” or we even hung out at the community pool. The friend we played with were the ones they could see. Of course they weren’t with us every waking minute of the day- and there those friends that you only had at school but for the most part it was a pretty straight forward question with a straight forward answer.

Today’s parents still can see who their kids are playing with at the park or out in front- but many don’t know who they are playing with when they go online. Today most video games have some component that allows players to connect with other opponents via the Internet. They can meet up with people that they know as well as those they don’t. Depending on the game they can chat and some even allow them to talk to each other during play. When children are involved in this type of play do you know who they are communicating with?

For the most part my children only seem to interact with their friends. They schedule time to be online together in Club Penguin, Webkins, Facebook, World of War or one of many games on Xbox Live. It’s their way of play. The “play dates” have become virtual – they can happen at anytime from anywhere. They still play with people that they meet online and because of how the environments they are participating in are set up I can’t keep them out of those areas. I make sure that they have the best privacy settings and we keep the computer or gaming system centrally located.

One thing that hasn’t changed, and that is be a good parent and talk to your kids. Listen to them and discuss the games and who they are meeting online. The following links are interesting facts and tips to help understand the guidance that you children need while online.

In August 2017, Julia Fischer joined our extended network of alumni.