Most people think of the world of online gaming as a sanctuary, an escape from the stresses of the real world. There’s no boss breathing down your neck, no traffic jams backing you up for miles on your way home, no checkbook to balance or kids to check up on. It’s just you, and your favorite virtual race car, machine gun, or three-headed alien gladiator.

Unfortunately, the pureness of online gaming has suffered the same invasion that the rest of the digital world – crime, scams, hackers, basically everything that makes the Internet both a wondrous and perilous place. And because gamers are quite often children or young adults, many of them are more susceptible to the dangers lurking in the online gaming community. This makes it all the more imperative for parents and adult gamers to be vigilant when it comes to online gaming security best practices. Games and platforms are going to get hacked, but that doesn’t mean that your account and your information should fall victim. Protecting yourself offline and online is the best way to avoid online gaming security issues.

Here are some great tips to keeping you and your family safe during online gaming sessions.

  1. Don’t talk about anything outside of gameplay with other online users. Most online gamers are nice folks looking to make social connections while doing something they love. Unfortunately, there’s a dangerous minority who is looking for ways to exploit other users, particularly children, but also for the point of stealing personal information or credentials.
  2. For your gaming experience, use antivirus software. Hackers will try to send you instant messages or other communique filled with malware, and some free games or in-game applications can come pre-infected without even their manufacturers being aware.
  3. Have your entire family use one email to log into games. This reduces the risk of hackers learning individual names of people in your family or being able to identify which family members is online.
  4. Use a firewall when connecting to a gaming network. This is a great way to keep the bigger, more blunt-forced attacks out.
  5. Set time limits for children. Not just the length of time they can play, but what hours they can play as well. After school and before bed are good choices, but 1 a.m. is not. Children should strive to play games with their peers, not in an environment where everyone else is likely to be an adult.
  6. If you witness anything inappropriate or dangerous in-game, take a screenshot of it and be sure to capture the name and as much information as possible from the perpetrator as you can. Then report them to the proper authorities, be that the game itself, the network hosting it, etc. The more these type of trolls are allowed free reign without consequences in a gaming environment, the more people will be affected by their inappropriate behavior.
  7. Avoid links, pop-ups and image ads that appear during gameplay as there is no way to test the accuracy of these links and where they might lead you.