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The Sneaky Way Kids Are Making Money Using the Internet

The Short of It

A child psychologist reveals the sneaky way some kids are making money online.

The Lowdown

Dr. Becca Ballinger recently wrote a blog for the Huffington Post that sheds light on a potential danger kids are being exposed to online, that most parents probably don't even know about.

She says teens are using gaming to make money. Wait, is this even possible? Yes, in fact, selling virtual goods to other gamers can be lucrative, depending on how much time one puts into it.

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If you're like me, you may be wondering, "What are virtual goods?" Well, they're items that are awarded to gamers for reaching a level of a game. It can take hours (days, weeks!) to earn these goods, so if a gamer is short on time or engaged in competitive gaming, he or she might be willing to pay for the item.

Sounds innocent enough, but Dr. Ballinger highlights why this practice can be dangerous.

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The thing is, with the money teens are making, they're buying apps on their phones their parents don't necessarily know about. The other problem is parents don't know who their kids will encounter online through this practice.

Gaming also takes up time that could be used for homework, sports, family activities, and real-world encounters with friends. And Dr. Ballinger warns that teens may equate making money through gaming to a real job, further increasing the chances that other areas of their lives will suffer.

She also says kids run the risk of forming an unrealistic picture of the future based on their experiences making money online. I mean, most adults don't sit home selling virtual goods to pay the mortgage!

The Upshot

Dr. Ballinger offers these tips for monitoring kids' gaming habits online:

• Make sure you know what games your child is playing online and if there's a virtual goods component to it.

• Talk to your kids about the dangers of selling and/or giving away virtual goods to strangers.

• Monitor your child's computer use for excessive gaming—spending hours playing a certain video game could indicate that they're trying to earn a large amount of virtual goods to sell.

• Take note if your child suddenly has expensive items that you didn't pay for; this could be a sign that they're earning money in a way that you don't know about.

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For me, it's all about trying not to lose control as my child gets older and spends more time online. My second-grader has her own iPad, but she must play with it in common areas in our house and can only use apps and games we have purchased. Still, I know the challenges of monitoring her online activity will multiply down the road. Open communication is key, but I'm open to more ideas. How do you keep tabs on your child's online use?

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