Transparency in a family builds trust, but sharing information while gaming online can set you up for unnecessary risks. Your children may be sharing details that can impact not just them, but you.
Today’s guest is Eric Jones. Eric is an experienced product manager and developer with over 20 years experience and more than 9 years in Agile Software Development. He is the founder and creator of All Knowing Parent focused on educating people on all avenues of technology and hardware.“All of these games that allow for online community play you will always get people you may not know. You have to recognize that as soon as you make someone a friend on these platforms, it gives them access to you.” - Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
- [0:50] – Eric shares what he does as a career and about his startup.
- [2:27] – As a father of two young girls, Eric is adamant about monitoring technology use.
- [3:50] – Eric is a big believer in transparency.
- [5:40] – Gaming is not just a casual hobby anymore.
- [7:01] – On all gaming consoles there is some sort of communication with other players online available both as text and voice.
- [9:10] – On some platforms, you have to be “friends” with someone to play together. Some games do a better job than others on safety.
- [10:15] – Eric talks daily to his children about safety in gaming. These conversations started before they were even playing it.
- [12:03] – Setting rules ahead of time is important to avoid cleaning up a mess.
- [13:23] – Kids tend to give out so much information easily.
- [14:48] – What are the pieces of information that you should make sure are kept private? Eric says everything.
- [17:01] – Even giving out gamer handles from other consoles shouldn’t be shared.
- [18:28] – Consoles protect your IP address better but gaming on servers do not.
- [20:25] – Almost everything these days is connected to the internet. Unfortunately, a lot of pressure is put on the user.
- [22:18] – When you’re playing online, you don’t see the type of people you play with through a username. Eric explains what swatting is.
- [23:20] – People can also raid a streamer’s channel with obscenities and can piece together information through social engineering.
- [25:03] – Don’t assume someone doesn’t want your information. They may hack you simply as a launching off point to something else.
- [26:41] – Referring to a previous episode, everything connected to the internet can slowly give away pieces of information.
- [28:16] – Social engineering is not as hard as you might think in online gaming just by watching how you play.
- [30:57] – Children trust first and as adults, we’ve learned to trust second.
- [31:54] – A gaming company’s priority is not user safety.
- [33:16] – If playing with people you don’t know, be extremely kind and avoid topics like politics and religion.
- [35:21] – DDoS attacks are less common these days but can still happen.
- [39:11] – Unfortunately, if a kid really wants something, they will be motivated to get around things you have in place to keep them safe.
- [39:45] – Eric describes how and why he founded All Knowing Parent.
- [41:14] – Eric’s goal is to educate and be a support for people to better understand the technology in their life.
- [43:12] – There are no cookie-cutter answers. Eric helps people with each question as they arise and gives an example of a recent customer question.
- [44:10] – All Knowing Parent is offering discounts for Easy Prey listeners! Check that out at AllKnowingParent.com/EasyPrey
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Eric, thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today.
Hey, Chris. I'm excited to be here. I can't even get my words out right.
I'm always excited to be here. Give the audience a little background about who you are and what you do.
Sure. I'm a father of two young girls. I have an eight-year-old and a nine-year-old, beautiful wife. By day, I work for a consulting company here in the Atlanta area and spend my day helping solve problems for major organizations. By night, I have a little startup called allknowingparent.com where I basically am trying to help people with their technology problems. Every business has an IT shop; I'm trying to give families and parents their own IT shop, as it would be.
That is definitely something that is severely lacking and that most home users have a modem or router that they got from their ISP when they put the connection in 15 years ago.
Most of those people don't realize that their ISP has set that router up to automatically broadcast where they're at and to offer their free WiFi to everybody driving by as well. It is definitely a place where I think everybody needs it, but not everybody knows they need it, and I just want to be that person.
I don't have all the answers, but what I do have is the time and the passion to research those answers, and I think that's really what I bring to the table and everything. It goes beyond just routers and modems. I mean, it goes into your gaming consoles, gamers, and what their kids are doing on their iPads. Just all that kind of technology stuff can become so overwhelming so quickly.
Yeah, and a lot of parents, if they're not tech-savvy, they don't know what their kids do and don't have access to, and it's kind of a scary thought what they might have access to.
Oh, yeah. As I said, as a father of an eight- and nine-year-old, every night I spend time on my daughter's iPad—“What did she text? Who is she texting? What is happening?” I play a game or I do an app before she does it so that way I can know what it is. I know when she becomes a teenager, she's going to be like, “Dad, really? Are you going to be that guy? You're that dad?” Yes, I'm that Dad. I'm the one friending all your friends because I want to see what they're posting.
Are you one that is a firm believer in telling kids—I don't want to say snooping—that you're watching what they're doing, or do you want to watch what they're doing without them knowing about it?
Again, I work in the IT industry as a full-time job. I'm a professional consultant and that's what I hate is when I get a corporate laptop and they've got all the spyware on there, the tattletale software that tells them how long I was on, what apps I was using.
My kids know that. I'm very upfront with them and they know that, “Hey, on our iPad, we have parental controls in place. We have limits on different applications on their iPad.” If they want more time, they have to ask mom and dad. They've got to hit that little request for more time button and everything. They know that I can get on and see their text messages whenever I want. I know their PIN codes. They, unfortunately, have guessed our PIN code so we keep changing them. But that's a different battle and everything.
No, I'm a big believer in transparency. I don't think you can build trust and I don't think you can really build a solid relationship if you're snooping on them. don't want your boss snooping on you and saying, “Oh, you've been on email for four hours today and you were on Facebook for three hours. What's up with that?” No, let's just have a conversation about what's going on in everything. A big believer in transparency.I’m a big believer in transparency. I don’t think you can build trust or a solid relationship if you’re snooping on them. -Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
That's awesome. You talked about gaming. In my mind, I think of two categories of gaming. You've got the people that are sitting down in the basement, they're on a console, they're on a desktop, and as we're both looking around, they're playing for four, five, six hours a night. Then there's the casual gaming where it's Words with Friends, Candy Crush, or things like that. What do you classify that higher-end gaming? What do we call that?
You have your die-hard gamers. You have your people that they just have a love for it. It's a sport to them. I do use that word because we do see that as a growing thing, e-sports is becoming a thing. Here in Forsyth County, Georgia—we’re in one of the most northern counties—we have an e-sports league for our kids.
My nine-year-old daughter can go out and join an e-sport league, play professionally, as it would be for the county, and go through all the realms that it would be. I think we're really seeing a blurring of the lines. There is no such thing as a casual gamer anymore. You call somebody a casual gamer, that just means that they have it on their phone and they pick up Maniac Mansion, Candy Crush, or something and play it every so often.
I'm a dad of two. I don't get a lot of time for gaming, I love it. I'm a casual gamer. I play every Tuesday night with my friends for a couple of hours. That would be casual, and then, like you said, there are people that will literally sit down in their basement, they'll play for six to eight hours. Whether or not that's healthy or not, that's completely up to that person, it's completely up to that parent. I don't judge it at all.
There are kids that want to become YouTube famous. My nine-year-old daughter constantly wants to record, constantly wants to create YouTube videos and stuff like that. As a parent, it's something that we have to be very mindful of and judicious about what we allow, what we go down to, and everything based on what I believe as a parent, which may be completely different than what you believe or some other listener.
But it's good to know what the options are. Let's talk about what are some of the risks that are faced by people that are—we'll call them the pro gamers, whether they're actually making money or not, but they're investing time, resources, and money into it. Then we'll come back and talk more about casual gaming on the phones, on the iPads, and things like that, and just kind of picking it up while you're at the bus stop waiting, that sort of stuff.
If you go with the more in-depth intensive games, you're talking about someone's got a console—an Xbox, Playstation, or Switch, any one of those kinds of systems—where they're playing online with other people, they're basically in a community. They have—on all of those apps—some form of communication.
It can be as simple as a text communication like a chatbot that they have in-game or they can have chatting outside of the game. They have Discord servers that are completely set up that allow kids to be able to talk about their favorite games while they're playing the game, even if that game has no chat ability in it. Not just text, but you have a voice. A lot of games have a lot of voice controls on them. A lot of ability to play with other players, have a headset and talk to each other as you're playing.
Me and my friends like to play Ghost Recon Breakpoint. It's an online first-person shooter game and it has the ability to be able to chat. There's no way we could play that game through text, it's too fast-paced, it's too much going on. We talked earlier about Counter-Strike; it’s the same thing then. You had servers that were set up. That’s what Discord is huge on is setting up those servers that allow people to chat and text back and forth.
Anytime that you have that community of people, you invite people you don't want. Just face it. We go to the grocery store and someone steals our parking spot. We don't like that person anymore, as it would be. The same thing can happen in gaming. You get into these massively multiplayer online games—what they call MMORPGs—and that is literally anybody in the world can join.
That's different from what my friends do on Tuesday night. On Tuesday nights, we have to be invited. We have to actually say, “Hey, I want this person to come play with me.” We have to be invited to each other's group, or I friend them, which we'll come back to in a second. As a friend, they can automatically join me if I'm playing.
A lot of these really big worlds like Roblox, a lot of the server games like Minecraft, Marvel League of Legends. I could just go on and on, Halo Infinite just came out. All of these games that allow for online community play, you're always going to also get somebody else that you may not know.
If you're my nine-year-old daughter, everybody you play with is your friend, so you want to friend everybody on there, but you have to recognize that as soon as you make someone their friend, it's giving them access to you. It's like handing out your email address, and we don't share email addresses with everybody because we know that some people are going to spam us and that can happen on the gaming systems as well. People can say unsavory things.
A lot of games like Roblox have done a really good job of putting in some hashing of bad words or hashing of words that may be worrisome, but that still doesn't stop it. People find their ways around it. The emoji craze right now, you can do so much with an emoji and everything like that. There are actions that you can do.
It's a scary world, to be honest with you. That's why with me and my daughters, it's a constant conversation every day, all the time. I know when I've done something well when my daughter is teaching my principles to her friends.
That's a victory for me right there.
That's a huge win that's sitting in the next room going, “Yeah, that was good.”
That's an imaginary high five to your best friend right there.
Is it teaching your daughters about who you friend, who you're willing to connect with? Are you telling her if you don't know them, don't connect with them?
I think it even starts before they get on the game system, before they even get on the game. My daughter asked for Roblox for like months and I wouldn't let her have it because, one, I wanted to get on the game first and just see what it was, how it worked, what kind of the controls were. Really, how good it felt to me and everything. But then it was a conversation with her ahead of time, like, “Hey, this game allows you to have friends.”
It's not like the Switch where you've got to get somebody's number and you've got to type it in. They make it a little harder. You see someone in the game and you just click friend, friend, friend, friend. You go down the list and you can literally friend a hundred people in 30 seconds. Everybody that you've played with can show up and you can have it auto-friend people that you've played with, as it would be.
In some of these games, my kids like feathered friends or they like some other one where these cats are doing some RPG. I don't understand it but there are 50 people in this one little server room. If they were to friend everybody, every time they get on there, that would essentially explode. It's just letting them know, “Hey, it's great to play with people online, and it's great to be respectful, to have fun with them, and to do what you do. That doesn't mean that they're your friend.”
Just like when we go to the playground. You may see a little boy or girl there that you play with and you guys may have a great time. That doesn't mean that they're your friend, it means that you had fun with them at that time.
Our rule in our house is simple. If we don't know them, we don't friend them. Unless you physically have met them or you physically know them, then we can't friend them, which she's always excited when she comes back from a camp or something like that. “Oh, I know so and so now.” And I would friend them on Roblox and everything like that. We give a little grace there for her on that.
It's setting those rules ahead of time because then you don't have to have the uncomfortable conversation later. I think that's really the key thing because cleaning up a mess is a whole lot harder than preventing a mess.Set rules ahead of time because cleaning up a mess is a whole lot harder than preventing a mess. -Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
Yeah, and I assume the key thing is trying to make sure they're not connecting with—at least for your children—predatory adults on those platforms.
Oh, 100%. I wouldn't even say predatory adults. I would just say predatory people because, let's face it, it's not just adults anymore. It's not just some creepy guy in the basement or something like that. It can be just about anybody. Their predatorial ways can be for a wide range of reasons. It could be, “Hey, I'm going to get to know this kid because I want to actually learn more about their parents because it's really the parents that I'm after.” People don't realize that kids give out information so easily
Way too easily.
Way too easily. They're telling you, “Hey, my mom is this, my dad is that,” or those kinds of things. When they get older, you need to push back and not let them give out some information and everything. We've had some slip-ups. I mean, no kids are perfect. They're going to make mistakes, but it's just recognizing and catching it right away.
Hey, you shouldn't be telling somebody that you're a YouTuber because if their first response is like, “Oh, yeah, I've seen you on YouTube.” Well, what kid wouldn't get excited about that? They're trying to be the next Preston […], or some other big YouTuber out there. To hear that someone that they don't know knows who they are, right then and there, that's a red flag to my little daughter.
She's learned that, I've taught her that. “Hey, if someone says that they know you on YouTube, they probably don't. You got seven followers, baby girl. I'm sorry. They're not one of those people.” Now she's like, “Hey, Daddy, I got a scammer today and I totally reported on him.” I go, “Yeah.”
What are the don'ts? It's don't connect with friends. You're saying don't share personal information. What particular information should we be particularly concerned about sharing on games?
I mean, everything. Really, the best is to start with everything. Again, being an IT guy, when you set up a new firewall, what's the first thing you do? You close all the ports. You shut everything down and then you open up what you need.
“Oh, you need to send emails? I'm going to open those email ports. You need to browse the web? I'm going to open up those browsers.” It's the same thing I tell my kids when they go to do their stuff. We shut down everything. We don't tell them anything. You don't tell them your name, you don't tell me your favorite color, you don't tell me you have cats.
I'm giving away more information on this podcast than my kids do online and everything. Again, it's all about making sure that they can't find that little thing that allows them to create that relationship. That's really important. Could someone create a relationship knowing that your daughter or son loves football, loves dance, loves the Braves?
At first, you go, “Who cares if they know she likes the Braves? Everybody in Atlanta loves the Braves.” It's a Georgia thing or whoever your favorite team is, and everything. The fact is that we want to teach them that that information is sacred because as they get older, that's the same kind of information that a scammer may call you up on the phone and say, “Hey, we're just validating some records and we just want to double-check. Did you used to live on this road?” They go through all those social engineering questions and stuff like that.
That's all I'm doing is trying to prevent my kids from being socially engineered at a young age. We basically tell them, “Don't tell them anything.” They shouldn't be asking questions about your personal life, and if they are, then that's a sign that maybe you need to move on and play with somebody else.All I’m doing is trying to prevent my kids from being socially engineered. We basically tell them, “Don’t tell them anything.”-Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
I mean, if we had to come up with a list of what are really important things, like, definitely don't ever give out your name. You could tell them what country you live in, but don't tell them what state, city—definitely not the city, anything that would narrow it down—but no name, no state, no personal address stuff.
If your kids know phone numbers, definitely no phone numbers—that’s for sure. Don't let them give out their emails. Don't let them give out their gamer handles. That's another thing that kids will do is they'll be on the iPad playing Roblox and they'll give out their Switch gamer handle or their Microsoft gamer handle. It's really easy to friend somebody on Xbox and immediately see when they come online.
You don't have to approve that friendship, as it would be. It's just they're following you, they know what's happening and everything. You can lock down your profile to prevent that from showing, but on default, all that kind of stuff is out there. Not showing out your game or handle is really cool.
Then anything that's personal, like you have a sister, don't tell them anything about your family, don't give mother and dad's names, things like that. It's getting to a point where we have to be really careful also because we don't know who is on the other line and what their belief system is. We don't know what they feel is right or wrong.
If your family is not what we would call a nuclear family or a traditional family—has a mother and a father—and you go out and tell somebody how your family is set up, that person on the other line may not be that way. They may not like it, and then that can cause that poor kid to have questions or comments thrown at him that he doesn't need to have in everything.
Are the platforms getting better about preventing IP addresses from being exposed? My audience knows about IP addresses. Are the platforms getting better about preventing IP addresses from being shown, making it easier to block people?
I think on the consoles, you get a little bit better because it's a little bit harder. If you're on an iPad, PC, or something that connects to a centralized server, you’ve got to remember you're connecting to that server. Your IP is logged in.
It's really hard to game through a VPN and you can do it, you can set it up, but for the most part, people don't. In fact, if you look at most of your hardware that's gamer-focused, really what they're doing when they make it game focus is they're taking away a lot of their security precautions in order to open up those pipes as fast as they can to allow those bits to fly through.
You do have to be concerned about that stuff. You do have to watch out for what my system is giving away. Now the gaming companies and the gaming systems are getting better at it, but there's still so much pressure put on the individual user. I mean, in most games, you've got to be 13 or older to play. Well, I've just admitted I have an eight- and a nine-year-old playing all these games so that means that they've got parental permission.
Now, something like Roblox is great because if you set it up as a young kid, it goes out and emails your parents and says, “Hey, so and so is trying to get it in.” Now that's if your kid’s honest. I know people whose kids sign up as 13-year-old boys or girls, 35-year-old men, or 10-year-olds signing up as 35-year-old men because they want to get past all those restrictions that are put in place at their age and everything.
Again, it's no fault of the gaming companies because that's really hard for them to track. How do they know unless they go through a full-on Equifax credit report check? Did you live at this address? Have you ever owned this credit card? That kind of thing. They're never going to be able to do that. There is a lot of just understanding the risk that you're doing.
I think it was one of your earlier podcasts about the Internet of Things lady that came on. I can’t remember her name right now. Fabulous podcast, by the way, and again, everything you plug in, it's kind of an IP address all of a sudden. I've got a smart washer that's online. All that data is going out to LG.
I have no idea about the firmware. I admit, I'm one of those people that's probably not as good with my Internet of Things as I need to be, but I'm pretty judicious about keeping those things up to date and securing my firewalls and all that good stuff. Too much of it is still on the consumer, in my opinion. There needs to be a lot more that's put out there, especially from an age verification standpoint. I think there are things that they could do to better control some of that.
For older gamers—people that are over 18, that are adults, that are on the more pro-level of things, let's say. It’s not casual gaming. I used to hear about swatting where people would learn this clan is against that clan. They find out someone's name, they find out they're able to figure out their address, and in the middle of the game, someone calls up the local police department and says, “Hey, there's a guy outside my front door with a gun. I'm being held hostage,” and swatting.
All of a sudden the SWAT team rolls up to the house, kicks the front door down, puts everybody at gunpoint, and the person on the other end is, Hahaha, that's so funny.” When people are pointing guns, it's never a funny thing.
That's one of those things, even as adults, we have to be careful about what information we make available, and that's probably even, in some sense, harder when you're working as a team.
Yeah, it really is. It does become an issue because again, when you've got these communities and you've got these people that are just mixing personalities, stereotypes, ideals, morals, and political affiliations, all of that kind of stuff all comes together. You don't see that through a profile name, you don't see that through your gamer tag. Swatting is an issue that still comes up. It's still a big issue. There was a big […] over the summer when COVID hit. People were doing it because they're bored. As one kid’s excuse, “Why did you swat that person?” “I was bored. That was fun.” Like, “OK.”
But then there are those that are extremely competitive. If they feel like they're getting beat, they'll do that. What we've also seen a lot is, if you're a streamer, one, God bless you because I’ve tried to and it's too hard. But if you're on there playing your video game, you're streaming it, and you've got a live audience, they know exactly what you're doing. It's amazing what they can piece together through social engineering or just who they want.
But they'll do raids on your channel where people will just literally attack your channel and fill it with obscenities and stuff like that. You have to be willing and ready, at a moment’s notice, to be able to turn that kind of stuff off and to kind of step away. I think as we get older we feel like we're smarter. Like that can't happen to me, but you never know when you're going to make a mistake.
The other night I was playing and I accidentally friended somebody. I was like, “Oh crap, I don't know who this person is. I don't know anything about him. I don't want him to be my friend.” I had to quickly go in and unfriend them. I don't know this person, but I had to block him. I don't know who they are, but it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to that. Sure, I may be a little bit extreme on that kind of stuff, but I was the guy back in the day when Foursquare first came out, I checked into everything. I was the king of the local Starbucks near my house and all these other places. It’s a rite of passage.
The same thing is with gaming. People are proud of their accomplishments and they want to share them and everything like that. But you’ve got to be careful with what you share. It's great to live behind the persona and stuff like that, but we're not all a bunch of ninjas that have a million dollars that can help protect us and everything like that. But even him, I think his Twitter got hacked about a year ago or so.
It's important to notice that if you have a gamer, tag you're probably on social media with that gamer tag somewhere else as well. People are searching for it. It's easy to go in and Google. “Hey, what's your gamer tag?” Find out everything about your gamer tag. There are going to be people that want to hack it. Now they may not want to hack it because they want to get to you, but they want to be able to use you as a launch point for something else.
We always use that saying like, “Oh, people don't want to hack me, no one cares about my information.” You're right, they probably don't care about your information, but they care about what your system will get them to the next step.
When we saw that, was it this past summer, it was a little bit different, but with all the Twitter accounts that got hacked, it wasn't that anyone was doing anything with the details from that account. But it was, “Hey, I'm going to double your cryptocurrency if you send it to this address.” A whopping couple of hundred thousand dollars was sent because people fell for it. Because they thought Bill Gates was going to double their crypto.
Yup. I've got friends that have been black hats that have converted to white hats. They flat out told me, “Look, when I was a black hat, you're right, I could care less about your measly bank account. I could care less about what you're doing, what's on your hard drive, any of that kind of stuff, I could care less. What you were is just a node for me. You were just a point on the internet that I can launch another attack from and they couldn't trace it back to me.” It's the same thing with our system. […] person said, you’ve got to make sure you keep these things up to date.
It's amazing, a lot of consoles have done really good where they won't let you go online and play the online stuff unless you've got the latest version of the game and the latest version of the OS, which I think is wonderful. I wish we could see that in more areas because it really does help out on those kinds of things.
Yeah, that conversation with Amanda was crazy just to think about all the devices that are connected. They're all pushing little bits of information, they’re all an entry point into your network for somebody else. I kind of think of that with games. We don't think about it that way, but if you're in the process of playing a game, you've got data coming in, you’re broadcasting what's going on. While you hope the game is secure, there's always a risk in those things.
But yeah, think about it too, gaming is a way of socialization. We can learn a lot about a person by the games that they play, how they play those games. I mean, I could sit there and play with somebody, and I know is this person someone that is competitive or not competitive, are they a jerk or are they not a jerk? Do they prefer first-person shooters versus adventure games or whatever?Gaming is a way of socialization. We can learn a lot about a person by the games they play, how they play those games. -Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
You can go out there, and if your profile is set up for it, I can go in and I could see every game that’s in your library. I could see your trophies. What games do you really like? I can friend you and be like, “I've never played Halo, as it would be, and I can see that you've been playing the new Halo Infinite for the past six hours straight. I can friend you and send you a message and be like, “Dude, what do you think of Halo Infinite? Isn't it amazing? Oh my gosh.”
Well, yeah, I know you're a fan because you've got every Halo game and you've got almost all the trophies across the board. Right then and there I create that relationship. Again, I think we as a society, because we are so kind of stuck on our screens a little bit, we've kind of lost that idea of having that connection and that relationship. Whenever someone does show interest in us, we grasp onto it a little bit more whether we're doing it consciously or not.
I've even heard the social engineering happening through Words with Friends, innocuous. You're like, “Oh, I'm just playing Scrabble with somebody online.” I think because of that, there's a certain amount of the guard is down, and once you've played that person a number of times, even though you've never met them and you've never done anything other than play Scrabble, you're letting the guard down, or while you're playing, “Oh yeah, it's raining.” “Oh, it's raining?” “Oh, hey, I've been there. Is that near this? Is that near that?” And all of a sudden, you're starting to give away personal information.
Yeah, it always starts off innocent. Anything about it, no free game is actually free. We don't have to worry about just the nefarious people we’re playing with, but what are you getting for that free Candy Crush game? They're sending them information, you're sending them bits. They're seeing other things, as it would be. People are the same way. They're trying to gather that information and everything.
My family has a rich military history. Part of that military history includes working in the intelligence community. It's amazing how people will look at certain family members in my family and be like, “They're an extremist. They're crazy because they pay everything in cash or they only use checks or whatever.” Well, it's because they've seen how that information can be used. They've gone through because they've been the person that has been on the other side of the fence trying to make that connection in order to get you to give up information, and we do it without even thinking
Again, you could take this podcast right here, go back and just listen to the information that I've given. So far you would know my name, which is obvious. You know where I live pretty well. There's a lot of information that I’ve given just on this podcast. That's a risk I take and that's information that I'm putting out there. Granted, I own a home—public record. I'm sure you can find it anyway, as it would be. But still, that's how simple it is for us to give up that information. Even on these very casual games.
Especially for kids. The younger you are, the less developed the brain, the less that you're thinking about, “Well, why would someone be asking this question? What am I really giving up with this question?” Kids are awesome. I just want to connect with anybody. I don't care who you are, I'll be your friend.
It is and it's sad. It's really sad that they had to kind of lose a little bit of that innocence, as it would be, and have to not have that trust. They trust first. I think we as adults, as we've grown up, we have learned to trust second. Some people trust third, fourth, and fifth, as it would be. But unfortunately, with technology and with everything else, you have to on a level. You have to put up that protection because the systems out there aren't made to really 100% protect you. They don't have your best interest at heart, unfortunately.
The game's first concern is not your personal safety.
Not at all. They want you to buy more rubies or whatever in-game currency it is. They want you to spend six hours in your basement playing it. They want you to engage with friends. That’s why they make it so easy. Because if you find people that you play with, you're more apt to. I look forward to my gaming sessions with my friends because I know it's going to happen. Same thing. They're banking on it. They're like, “Yup, Eric’s going to log in in about 30 minutes from now.”
The more community a person builds, the more likely they're going to stay on that platform.
Most definitely. I mean we become fanboys, without a doubt. I'm a PlayStation fanboy. That's who I am. I've had an Xbox. I've played on it. I just prefer the games on the PlayStation, and I have friends that are diehard Xbox fans. I bought a friend a PlayStation just so he plays with me, and he still plays on his Xbox more. When you get in that community and you develop that world, it's really, really hard to break away from it.
It's the PC versus Mac, just on a different platform.
We don't even talk about that. We know Macs are the winner.
I agree. See, now we both tipped our hands saying that we use Macs.
We did. We did.
What are we doing? We're just giving away everything here.
I tell you.
Are there things that we should be doing to—I think we talked a little bit about it—avoid conflict in games? Obviously, I think avoiding religion and politics. Thanksgiving rules apply to gaming rules—no religion, no politics.
Yeah, I mean, I think that's fair. I mean again, if you play with your friends, if you play with people that you know, you know what your boundaries are. It's really easy. If you're playing with people you don't know, just assume that the boundaries are really high. Be careful with what you say. Be extremely kind. I think that's what we're missing in a lot of gamers is that a lot of people get out there, they get so competitive, and they want it so badly. We love to talk smack. But we could take that to too far of a level. You’ve got to be careful.If you're playing with people you don't know, just assume that the boundaries are really high. Be careful with what you say. -Eric R. Jones Click To Tweet
You’ve got to remember that there's a human being on the other side of that voice, or there's a human being on the other side of that chat message. We lose that a lot. Especially in this COVID world where all of us are communicating through Zoom, Teams, Skype, and everything like that. It kind of dehumanizes us a bit because it's just words. But when we put up a picture, then we kind of get to know who they are.
Just reminding yourself that there's someone's got heart, soul, and feelings on the other side of that. Treat them how you want to be treated. If you want to be treated like a jerk, then by all means, be a jerk to them because I guarantee you, they’ll be a jerk right back to you.
They will amplify it back to you.
They will. That's the thing. Just like social media. It's easy to take something small and blow it up into something big in such record time as it would be in everything. That's what leads to some of these swatting cases that we talked about earlier. It leads to someone trying to figure out what your IP address is and doing a denial of service on your home and that kind of stuff. Or taking your gamer tag, smearing it through the mud all across the internet, and signing you up for all kinds of other stuff. That's what people don't realize is that when someone's got a vendetta against you, they will go to extremes to let it be known that you wronged them in some way, shape, or form.
For online gaming, are DDoS really an issue these days, or is it not so much anymore?
It's not so much anymore on a personal level because again, most of us are connecting to a central server, and it's at the central server that's handling all the traffic, handling all the bits. It's rare that I'm connecting to another person. It's not like back in the day when we had LAN parties and everybody would run off my machine.
Now, there are games that are still running a little bit like that. Minecraft still has some semblance of that where it runs off of a direct connection here and there or through a central server with more data going back and forth. That is still there, but again, it's all through that centralized system, that centralized server. You’ve got to log in so we pretty much know who everybody is.
Again, if you're on PlayStation or Xbox, it's really easy to get someone banned. We've seen a lot of the PC gaming companies, much to the chagrin of the PC gamers, coming out with anti-cheat software that will ban you in a heartbeat, that'll catch you cheating, they'll figure out that you're not being nice, or whatever the wording that you want to use is. You get reported too many times, you get kicked and banned, and stuff like that.
That world is its own fascinating world of just trying to keep ahead. Just like the hackers out there, we’re always behind. We'll never know it. I saw a really cool video on YouTube the other day where a guy that plays—I can't remember what the game was, but one of those big multiplayer games online. This guy had cheats out of the wazoo on his system and he used them like crazy.
Things like instant aim where as soon as a target came into his frame, his cursor would automatically go to it and he wouldn't have to do anything except hitting the fire button. He’s getting kills and stuff like that. The game didn't catch up on that. He logged in one day this week and all of his accounts were shut down. Even ones that he hadn't used yet. The system had learned and caught up with it.
I think with AI and ML—artificial intelligence and machine learning—the computer learning to teach the computer is going to get to the point where we're going to be able to get ahead of a lot of that. I'm kind of excited for it. I kind of embrace it, especially for the younger kids.
On Roblox, you say a bad word, it'll hash it out for you. Even if you don't think it's a bad word, Roblox may hash it out anyways. My kids are always like, “Dad, I typed this in, why did they block it?” “I don't know.” It came close to something, as it would be. But usernames and gamer tags, still up in the air. Anybody who puts something in there, and we see that all the time on things like Among Us is a common one.
Among Us has done really well, and the younger kids, don't allow them to type anymore. They actually have to go through a scroll wheel and select words. You can say like select red is sus—suspicious, or this word means that they're in this thing and they selected words and it reads it out to them, as it would be. But they still can choose their own gamer tags.
They'll put gamer tags that aren't appropriate. I've looked at a few of these gamer tags and I knew what they meant. Luckily my nine-year-old daughter had no idea. I didn't really know that that was going on until one day, I'm literally there talking to my wife and all of a sudden my little daughter is yelling, “Stop it, so and so.” It's the name of a male body part. “Stop, so and so,” and she didn't know that it was bad. I was like, “Oh my goodness.” Now we’ve got to figure out how we block that, how we stop that, how we control that, as it would be, and everything.
I think it's funny. I get parents all the time asking me on All Knowing Parent like, “Hey, how do I keep my kids from A, how do I keep my kid from B?” Sadly, the answer is if the kid really wants it, they're going to get it. You know you can do a lot to put things into play, you're going to make it a little bit harder for them, but they're still going to find ways around it. Because they are more motivated than you are.
And they've got 45 friends who all know how to get around mom and dad, but mom and dad aren't talking to the other 45 parents saying, “How are you keeping your kids from doing this?”
I think that's a good time. Refresh us, what is All Knowing Parent and what kind of information do you have there?
All Knowing Parent is a new idea that actually got birthed from, believe it or not, Marco Polo. Marco Polo is a phone app that allows you to send video messages back and forth. My wife is on it with a bunch of her friends from college and they just kept asking me questions. “Hey, I heard of these things called blue blocker glasses, should I get a pair of those? What are they good for? How do I keep so and so's Instagram secure? What's TikTok? What do I need to do about TikTok? How do I set up my router? I want to run cabling through my house.” All these questions. I kept getting on there, recording video answers, and giving them to them.
Finally, somebody said, “You know, I'm going to pay you for this.” I said, “Well, that's a great idea.”
I like that.
Everybody's got that one family IT support guy, that one person they can go to. Exactly. You're that guy, I'm that guy or that girl. I'm just trying to provide a service that allows for that. It's a subscription-based service. The plan starts out at $5. Right now it's very basic. It's email basic support, but there are plans in the future to offer video support, video consultations.
If you're in my local area or as we grow into a local area, maybe even on-site type stuff. But we're just getting started. Really, the sky's the limit. But my goal is just to educate people so that they can feel empowered with the technology in their home, and then they can re-engage with their families. Think of me like the research guy you never had. Anybody can, yes, google for the answer, but how do you know which answer is right? How do you know what answer is good? I can’t tell you how many articles I've read where they don't actually give you the answer.
That is my pet peeve. You think it's going to be a great article on how to do something. This doesn't say actually how to do it. What's the point of the article?
Or they tell you about all this great stuff and never provide a link to that great stuff and things like that. Or they provide a link to another one of their articles. That's really what we do a lot is we do a lot of research for people. Questions like, “Hey, what's a good monitor for my kid for gaming? What's a good TV? I wanted to have a great TV for Super Bowl Sunday coming up and everything.” Product comparisons are another thing that we do. Just anything from a technical concierge type of way, that's really what we're here to help you out with. We don't have all the answers, but we do have all the time to find those answers.
I like that—all the time to find the answers. Please tell me you don't respond with, let me google that for you.
I do not. Here's a great example. I will actually give you an example of one of the questions that we’re thinking about. Recently, one of our customers reached out and said, “Hey, should I let my 10-year-old boy play this new game called Cuphead? He knew nothing about it other than it was a Nintendo Switch game and he knew that it was rated.
We did the research on the game, gave him a nice write-up about what the game was about, told him, “Yeah, it's got some violence in it. It's a sidescroller. It's two-dimensional.” Gave him a link to a couple of videos of people playing it so he could actually see actual gameplay that was going on. Then we gave him some examples of other games that he may or may not have in his kid’s library. That was huge for them because now he could say, “Oh, well, I actually owned this game, and this game, they're rated the same. They had the same level of violence on it. I feel comfortable that my kid can play with that. That's perfect. That's exactly what we need.”
That's kind of what we do. There are no cookie-cutter answers for anybody. We take the time to always say, “What is it? What do you need? How can we dig more into it?” I think a lot of that comes from my job as a consultant now. I love solving problems, so I want to get more information from you to make sure that I give you the best answer.
That is awesome. If people want to find you on social media, do you have social media channels for everything?
We do. They're pretty thin right now, but we're working on getting that better. You can find us out on Twitter and Instagram—@AKPSocial is our call sign. You can find us on the web at allknowingparent.com. If you go to allknowingparent.com/easyprey, we've got a special lander where we're offering some discounts for your listeners. We’ll be running those through the end of the year. Again, we're a small startup. We're just getting started. Ask us a question, challenge us. We're ready to help you.
That is awesome. We'll make sure to include all of those in the show notes so people can find them without difficulty. Thank you so much for coming on the Easy Prey Podcast today, Eric.
Hey, Chris, thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.
Condensed his wording down a bit to fit into a tweet.
Click to tweet: I’m a big believer in transparency. I don’t think you can build trust or a solid relationship if you’re snooping on them. -Eric R. Jones
Click to tweet: Set rules ahead of time because cleaning up a mess is a whole lot harder than preventing a mess. -Eric R. Jones
Click to tweet: All I’m doing is trying to prevent my kids from being socially engineered. We basically tell them, “Don’t tell them anything.”-Eric R. Jones
Click to tweet: Gaming is a way of socialization. We can learn a lot about a person by the games they play, how they play those games. -Eric R. Jones
Click to tweet: If you're playing with people you don't know, just assume that the boundaries are really high. Be careful with what you say. -Eric R. Jones