Online gaming is one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment. Whether it be World of Warcraft or checkers, games can provide instant stress relief as well as the opportunity to catch up with friends.
The extensive variety of games and gaming platforms can be overwhelming for gaming-newbies, and parents who are trying to learn a little more about their kid’s favorite online activities. In particular, parents are often concerned about how they can teach and encourage their kids to engage in safe gaming behavior.
If you are a parent of a kid who spends every waking hour in front of their computer, you have likely heard of the platform Steam. Not sure what Steam is, or whether it’s a safe place for your kids to explore? Well, read on to find out more.
What is Steam?
Steam was launched in 2003 and now has an estimated 150 million global users, making it one of the world’s largest gaming communities. It is e-commerce, gaming, and social media platform; passionate gaming fans use the website to buy, sell, and trade names and also interact with fellow gamers.
Thousands upon thousands of popular gaming titles are available on Steam, including Grand Theft Auto, The Witcher, and Borderlands.
Should I buy from Steam?
The short answer is, yes. As the largest PC gaming platform in the world, Steam has a wide variety of security protocols in place to protect your personal and financial information. If you are buying PC games online, Steam is the place to go.
In fact, Steam is an excellent example of a secure platform. Parents and kids should take the time to understand Steam’s security protocols so that they can identify other similarly safe gaming websites.
Before making any online gaming purchases, ensure that:
- The website is HTTPS protected: Whenever you visit a webpage, you provide that page with personal data. HTTPS ensures that this data is encrypted, which is an additional layer of protection against prying eyes.
HTTPS is particularly important when you are making online purchases. Steam is HTTPS protected — you can tell by checking for the small padlock at the far left of the URL bar.
- The website provides multiple, secure payment options: A reputable website will allow you to make purchases via all the major payment platforms, including VISA, Mastercard, PayPal, and gift cards.
PayPal should always be your preferred payment method, as it allows you to make a purchase without ever providing your card details to the website. Steam enables you to make payments with all leading card providers, via PayPal, and through their own gift cards.
- The website has its own security protocols: This can include two-factor authentication, backup methods of signing in, and a notification system if the server detects you are accessing your account from a new device.
Gaming accounts traditionally contain extensive amounts of personal information, including your name, date of birth, location, and credit card details. This information needs to be protected at all costs. Steam provides two-factor authentication, and also allows you to add your phone number to your account as an alternative sign-in method.
- The website offers customer service: There are many less than reputable websites out there that sell games at incredibly low prices. Don’t fall for the discounts; these websites are unlikely to offer customer support, which you will want should the game download fail or even worse, infect your device with malware. Steam has a comprehensive FAQ section and also a support team on hand to answer your questions.
Play it safe
Cybersecurity experts have identified online gaming platforms as one of the main targets of hackers and cybercriminals, which is not good news for the millions of people around the world who enjoy battling it out online.
Beyond the above-mentioned threats, online gamers should be on the lookout for:
- Cyberbullying: Getting caught up in the competitive spirit of a game is no excuse for treating your teammates and opponents with anything other than respect. Cyberbullying is rife in the gaming community, and young players are particularly vulnerable. Parents; make sure your kids are only playing with people they know in the real world, and teach them to come to you if anyone makes them uncomfortable or upset.
- Virtual theft: Cybercriminals are not only after your real-world dollars; virtual theft is an ever-growing problem in the gaming community. Gamers can spend hours building up their character traits, weapons, and armory, only to find it gone in the blink of an eye after a criminal hack into their account. Always protect yourself with strong, secure passwords, and multi-factor authentication.
- Webcam hacking: Streaming is a popular gaming pastime, with thousands of people tuning in to watch their favorite gamers battle it out via Twitch. Unfortunately, streams can be a prime target for online criminals. Often, these criminals want nothing more than to embarrass their victims but webcam hacking can have very real-world consequences.
- Doxing: A particularly harmful (and illegal) attack, doxing involves a perpetrator revealing personal details of their victim. Gamers often play anonymously under pseudonym usernames, which is a recommended tactic to prevent identity theft. A ‘doxer’ shares information including their victim’s real name, contact details, and location.
- Addiction: Often overlooked as a ‘threat’, gaming addiction occurs when what was a hobby becomes an uncontrollable fixation. People who are addicted to online games struggle to find a balance between their digital world and the real world. They will spend hours in front of the screen, to the detriment of their education, work, and relationships.
Combatting these threats is not easy. Gamers should certainly be using security software, including antivirus for gamers, to protect themselves and their personal information. Be sure to stick to reputable websites, like Steam, and schedule some time for non-screen activities. The outside world can be fun, too!