Privacy Protection: Child Online Safety

February 11, 2013 4:13:19 AM PST
It is estimated children now spend more than 53 hours a week consuming some type of media. That's more than a full-time job! And a big chunk of that is spent playing video games.

In our special series this week, "Privacy Protection", we look at what parents can do to monitor our child's online safety.

"It is so alluring, it is like a roulette," said Christine Wolf, a mom of three.

Wolf admits, like most parents, she has a tough time unplugging her kids from the computer.

"It's new players, new dynamics, they become obsessed, really do," she said.

Her youngest is a typical videogame loving 9-year-old.

But when asked how many strangers he thinks he has played with online while playing his favorite game, Minecraft, he said:

"Probably about more than 300, a lot of people on the server."

And that could be anyone from anywhere around the world.

"I tell them never to talk or respond to somebody they don't know," said Wolf.

While experts say monitoring a game like Minecraft on the computer can be hard, more parental control is available with game consoles like the Xbox.

Bob Day with Best Buy's Geek Squad says most calls today are from worried parents.

"The biggest concern is who are they interacting with online, not so much what they're playing, who are they communicating with and what kind of info are they getting from them?" Day said.

The good news? Day says, with many consoles, you can customize the playing environment. For example, the "family" setting on Xbox controls content. The "privacy" setting controls how your child interacts with others online.

"We set voice text to block. He can't voice chat or text anyone, only to his friends," said Day.

It'll take you some time to navigate through the settings. But it can give parents, like Christine Wolf, a little more peace of mind in this digital age when kids often know more than parents.

"It impresses me their grasp of technology info, but it scares me, really does," the mom said.

By the way, Minecraft although immensely popular with kids come with apparently very little content control.

Even with privacy settings, it is still critical to have regular conversations with kids about not interacting with strangers online.