Tips on Staying Safe While Learning Online

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are talking about online gaming and learning.
 
 
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Leaping into literacy-500

 

It’s been well established that kids learn best when they are having fun, engaged, interested in, and excited about what they are learning.  Recently, in the last 5 or so years, there has been a big push to create multi-player online games  geared towards children.  Some parents and experts are coming to the realization that these online games motivate many children.  While they are having fun playing- they are learning.

On this topic, I’m an expert through experience.  Here is how it happened with us.  My son got interested in playing an MMORPG – Wizard 101.  I allowed him to access the game.  I unmuted him so that he could see what people were saying, and was free to interact.  By doing that, his mind was engaged and focused on being able to be part of the conversation.  He wanted to know what everybody was saying and also talk back.  That drove him to figure out how to read – on his own.  In the beginning, I sat with him and told him what his online friends were saying (annoying, but true).  After a while, he just figured it out.  It was his desire to be a part of the conversation that drove him to figure out how to read and how to spell.

It took about 2 months of active playing for him to figure out how to read and how to write.

Yeah.

With doing something like that – there comes a lot of responsibility and also sitting with your child playing along.  There are adults playing along with the kids – and I had found through playing with him – that kids are mean and smart.  They figure out ways of getting around the filters to swear and made lewd comments.

Through my own experiences, I have come up with a few simple tips to help your children stay safe while learning online.

1.  Many of these games, there is a way that the character can be muted.  If your child is muted, they interact through a menu of “canned” words and phrases.  They can only see the words of people who use the menu.  It’s a way of keeping your daughter or son safer – and away from the mean people.

Drawback – I found that people don’t like to interact with muted characters (it’s a frustrating and cumbersome system to use), so the number of interactions will go down significantly.  We have fleed battles due to muted players.  Sad but true.  It’s hard to strategize with someone who can’t hear or talk.  Haha!

2.  Speak very frankly about the rigid guidelines and stick to them.  If they are broken – there is no exception – the game goes away.

a.  No swearing

 

b.  Report players that you see swearing or being abusive to you or anyone else.  Abusive behavior is not acceptable.

 

c.  Do not give your username or password out to anybody.

 

d.  No partnering off, being boyfriend/girlfriend or getting married.

 

e.  No giving out your phone number, email address, snail mail address, your name (first or last) or any other personal information.

 

f.  No interaction outside the game.  If someone asks you to go outside the game, then they are no longer your online friend.

 

g.  If you impose time limits, define what the time limit is.

 

h.  Online friends are not real friends.  Being a friend online doesn’t translate into being a friend in real life.  Never arrange to meet anyone.

 

i.  Never accept or give gifts (points, gear or the like).  The ability to give and receive gifts can be, and should be turned off.

 

j.  If someone is abusive or otherwise inappropriate- ignore and report them.  By ignoring, they are no longer able to come to you, or interact with you in anyway.

You review the rules and ask them to repeat (depending upon the age).  Talk about the rules often.

3.  In the first few months – especially – sit along with your child and play with him/her.  See what’s going on – and how the other people interact.  Then, you can better define your child’s limits.

Drawback – Time.  Be careful, by doing this – the game will become your addiction <Lisa Clears her throat>.

6.  Make sure the game is free of pop ups and other types of advertising.  It’s too easy for a child to be enticed to click on one of those pop-ups and go “who knows where”.  If the game has pop ups or other advertising displayed while the game is being played or during sign-in – choose another game.

7.  Keep the computer centrally located.  Our computer is in our kitchen – so if I’m not sitting right by him, I walk by frequently.  I often stick my nose in and look at what he is saying.
 
Computers in a Central Location
 

8.  I encourage him to report…report…report.  Reporting is a system within the game that tells the developers who is not being a good “friend”.

 

Here are a few other tips.

  • Make the game a family event.  It could be a family togetherness activity.  It would be a way for everybody to play together.  My Mother, my son and I would play together.  She was 1,500 miles away – and it was a way that we could all be together in one space.  We all really enjoyed it.  I gotta be honest, she was frustrating to play with.  She would walk so very slow – and get caught in every single battle.  But, we have good memories.
  • Be prepared to pay for a membership.  Most of the games you can only go to limited spots.  Your child will complete those quests in a few weeks.  Then what?  Pay for the membership.
  • Stay away from the lifetime memberships.  Kid’s interest goes here and there – then you are out $300.

 

Here are a few good online gaming recommendations.

Wizard101 – a popular multiplayer online game.  Your child will battle his/her way through multiple worlds and levels.  Download is free.  You can play a few worlds for free.  Memberships start at $5.95/month or get a package deal.  Note:  money is needed to buy upgraded gear, plants, food and the like.  it is a big money getter.

 

Herotopia – a very nice game for kids.  They travel through different worlds completing missions and learning.  Everyone is muted in this game.  You must use their menu.  You can play many levels for free – but you can get a all-access pass membership for $49.95/year – that allows you to get a pet, further customize your character and more.  See my review for Herotopia here.

 

Roblox – A building game.  You build houses, roads, villas and games.  You can get mighty creative and intricate in the building.  There is not much camaraderie in Roblox as there is in Wizard.  Might be a great game to start with.  Drawback – it’s expensive (in my opinion).  You can play free, but to gain more access, you need more money.  The first level is $5.95/month, but it doesn’t open up everything.  You might be paying $19.95/month – and still need to buy things within the game.

 

Minecraft – another creative building game.  Many players think it’s better than Roblox.  It can be bought and manipulated.  The game costs $27 and a card can be bought at Best Buy.

 

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Circle

Last week I spoke about a new concept called Circle – a device that connects to routers wirelessly – and works through an app on your iOS device (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone).  It helps us (parents) impose time limits (by shutting off internet access at a defined time set by you), block content and more.  You can read more about it here.

Do you kids use the internet?  What measures do you use to keep them safe online?

 

 

 

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Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival where we will be talking about Homeschooling Schedules. hmschool blogging button

 

Please take the time to read the submissions by other Carnival participants:

 

Lisa
<muscle-up-meals
About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post Lisa – it’s something that’s been on my mind. At the moment we have very limited internet access so my kids are almost never online but I’m hoping that will change soon and I’ve been thinking about how much access and freedom I want them to have online. You make some really great points here.
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