Pretty much as soon as a baby is born, we introduce them to the concept of playing games. We coax and cajole them into smiling, clapping and use games to ensure that even the most mundane activities such as eating breakfast appear more fun. Playing games is an important part of child development. They use their creativity to develop imagination, dexterity, cognitive and emotional strength. It’s an important aspect of development that allows them to engage and interact with the world around them so that they advance their skills in resilience, negotiation and conflict resolution.

As we get older, we must forego our love of games and the enjoyment that we receive from playing them for the more tedious aspects of life: work, paying the mortgage, and providing for our families. The only time the above doesn’t apply is unless, of course, you are a gamer, in which case, you still fulfill your adult responsibilities, but with the advantage of still being able to benefit from serious play.

However, just because you may not be climbing trees or playing football like you used to, does not mean that the games that you play now are devoid of risk. Here are 3 hazards that gamers face, and ways that you can play without risk.

1. Security
You can play games across a broad selection of devices: mobile devices, cell phone, desktop, and gaming consoles. 24/7 you have access to a global audience of people that you can interact with by setting up accounts on gaming platforms to share tips, challenge other players and chat in general. However, these people that you are interacting with are strangers, and while you may not dream of letting a stranger into your home, you may inadvertently be doing just that.

With this open access, you are opening yourself up to risks involved with your security: viruses, identity theft and phishing scams to name but a few. You must be aware of the level of information that you provide to your fellow gamers, they may be getting data from you in subtle ways to be used in criminal activities. You need to protect your online, otherwise you’re leaving yourself open to cybercriminals.

– Identity theft
Cybercriminals use sophisticated techniques to gain information from their intended victim. They use the information that they get from you to build a profile that can be used for illicit gains. Only share basic information with gamers – never use your real name in games, on platforms, or within the chat function.

It can be easy to divulge information accidentally. Have you ever shared that it’s your birthday? Where you live? Cybercriminals can use Facebook and other social media platforms to get the additional information that they need about you to complete the picture to steal your identity.

– Viruses
The way that we can play games across many devices means that it is rich picking for cybercriminals. The information that we store on our devices is a very attractive lure for the criminals: account information and credit card details. Always make sure that your security is up to date with the latest version of the software to protect you. Only download games from trusted and reputable sites – the https and padlock icon are there to protect you! This is also true for your mobile device too, don’t assume that criminals only target desktops.

2. Money
The security section above outlines the financial implications of having poor security that you are at risk of falling prey to, but there are other ways that gaming can impact your finances. While you may think that it is more cost efficient to be sat gaming rather than being out and about spending money, you are at risk of being caught up in financially damaging games without intending to be. There are a great variety of games that are free to download, and yet require payment to access further levels or use new characters. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a game without keeping track of how much money you are spending.

Games have become more sophisticated in response to the great popularity of gaming as a leisure activity, and the competition for your attention is fierce, so developers are given access to vast sums of money to make sure that their game is the best. However, this money must be recouped from somewhere, and it is through the add-on options that they secure their return on the investment.

There are, however, games that you can download that do not require real money to excel in them, such as social casinos. To understand the appeal of these options, you will return to the notion of playing games because they are fun, and because they don’t affect your real-life finances, you can play guilt-free.

3. Health
Whether you’re gaming for relaxation, entertainment or just to escape the humdrum of everyday life, your gaming could be giving your health a beating. How you access the games will depend on how you play it. Casual gamers may crane their neck over their mobile device, and for the hardcore? You will more than likely have a whole gaming setup devoted to your activity, but for both types of gamer, you could be playing with your long-term health.

– Your posture
Sitting with a bad posture for an extended period of time is a one-way ticket to having a bad back. Make sure that you switch positions regularly to ensure that you reduce the risk of a bad back. Research has shown that leaning back at 135 degrees is one of the best ways to avoid back troubles – you may need to adjust your setup to help you achieve this!

– Your diet

You may be able to devote hours to a game, but how are you fueling yourself during this marathon? Your diet needs to be adjusted to compensate for the time you spend inactive. It may be convenient to order a takeout or just eat a packet of chips but swap them for easy to access fruits and healthier options. You could maybe look into taking supplements packed with vitamins for additional energy, or you could even try a greens powder for extra nutrition.

You may be able to devote hours to a game, but how are you fueling yourself during this marathon? Your diet needs to be adjusted to compensate for the time you spend inactive. It may be convenient to order a takeout or just eat a packet of chips but swap them for easy to access fruits and healthier options.

Make sure that you eat keep hydrated too – with water. You may like to enjoy a beer while you are gaming, but it is easy to drink more than you intend when your focus is elsewhere; besides, being well hydrated will improve your concentration levels and help you to achieve more.

Gaming is a great way to relax and unwind, but you should be able to get your entertainment without the stresses and strains that can occur through oversight. Take extra care of yourself and be aware of the risks that are involved and how to avoid them.