Online Virtual Gaming

Online Virtual Gaming is the new favorite of many teenagers - but can too much time be spent in these chat rooms brawling with virtual strangers? Be aware of the physical and mental games before you hit that key!

With the proliferation of home computers, the virtual world has expanded into every aspect of our lives - one major part for teenagers being virtual gaming. Most computer games now contain small programs to connect to other computers through the Internet; providing an ever-changing set of opponents for your child. But could there be a downside to this new technology?

One of the first things you must consider when your child begins to game online is the amount of time he/she is dedicating to the game. Many shoot-em-up games can be mastered offline and then the skills transferred online, but this takes hours and hours of play - time that might be needed for other projects, such as homework and hobbies away from the computer screen. A parent should monitor the time spent online and offline on the game to see that the time is not excessive nor taking away from the household. Many online games can take hours to complete; therefore be aware that your child might also be racking up charges through your Internet service provider as well - and when you get that phone bill next month you might be the one ready to battle.

Most online forums are free; but some charge again by the hour - be careful that your child isn't doubling your monthly charges with both the connection and the actual room he/she is playing in. Again, supervision is necessary to make sure that you don't have phone bills that shock both of you. One popular forum is MSN's The Zone; which has both free games and those that require you to have bought the game beforehand and provide gaming rooms for free competition with others. Other gaming internet sites do charge, so make your child aware and not to incur any costs without checking with you first.

The problem of online gaming also includes physical problems - if your child sat in front of the television set for eight hours nonstop, you would be concerned. But the same is true of the computer monitor he/she is staring at for hours, working through a game. Doctors recommend that at least once an hour the computer user should get away from the screen, and your child is no exception. Even a short break for milk and cookies can help ease eye strain and mental fatigue.

As well, hands can become sore from use of the keyboard and/or joystick. Again, the parent must monitor the usage of the computer and lay down the law for gaming online and off.

One popular aspect of online gaming is the chat rooms where players meet to brag and discuss upcoming matches. Your child needs to be streetproofed when going into these rooms as to not give out personal information, like his phone number or address. Unfortunately the most popular games can also draw in dangerous users who prey on younger children online and chat rooms are excellent hunting grounds for them to find prospective victims. Instruct your child to never give out any information to anyone unless you verify it first, even if it seems to be a professional gameplayer or someone claiming to be from the website or the game company. Names and identities can be changed in an instant on the Internet, and your child can be susceptible to fast talking in cyberspace as easily as in real time.

Some parents are also monitoring the amount of virtual violence also found on the Internet and in the gaming rooms. If you feel that your child is playing a game that is too violent, or is having bad reactions to it, maybe it's time to cut down on the online time. Too often children can get caught up in a hobby at the expense of their grades and their real time friends, preferring the cyber-company of pals online - who might not even be who they seem.

While some studies have shown that virtual games improve hand/eye co-ordination and creative skills, some have indicated that constant violence, even virtual, can be harmful to a child. As a parent you must monitor what your child is playing and who he's playing it with - and react if you feel that the game is too violent or that your child's life has become nothing but a set of rotating chat room doors; spinning him/her into a net of Internet gaming that can swallow all other interests and educational activities up.

Online gaming can be fun for all ages - there are sites for chess players to go players to the newest giant robot war games, but careful supervision can ensure that everyone's a winner when the final score is counted.

© High Speed Ventures 2011