Could Your Child Be Playing Video Games with a Predator?
The number of online sexual offenses has doubled in the last three years. Doubled in three years. Child predators now targeting victims through a source that’s gonna shock a lot of you parents. With over 95% of children under the age of 18 playing some form of video games, and the skyrocketing popularity of online gaming, these fantasy worlds can now pose a very real threat to your children. According to a study, 25% of child gamers regularly play online with strangers. Many unmonitored and without parents knowledge, making it the perfect grooming ground for child predators. With estimates of 750,000 child predators online at any time, could your child’s gaming console be the perfect portal for predators? And there have been some pretty scary stories in the news, as of late. Predator tried to kidnap and 11 year old Florida girl to bring back to his home in Illinois, had posed as a 13 year old girl. And the case in, I guess the predator in North Carolina was using Xbox to manipulate underage boys into sharing nude pictures via an online gaming program. That statistic of at any given time, potentially 750,000 predators online. Would you have ever guessed it was that high? No, and I think with video games, parents are usually thinking about the violence. That’s what we hear so much about is that video games are violent and that they encourage kids to become aggressive or for kids to become violent, acting out what they see in the games. I don’t hear it, I’m a parent, three kids, I don’t hear people talking about video games are the places where predators are going to prey on kids, sexual predators. So this is really a shocking statistic for me, as a parent, and I think a lot of parents watching this are going to be scratching their heads saying no one told me that these video games were places where kids were being targeted. And one of the big risks, which we eluded to in the story, is that predators can pose as anyone they want online. You wouldn’t necessarily know, your child wouldn’t necessarily know. We’re joined now by Digital Safety Expert, Titania Jordan who joins us via Skype from Atlanta, cause obviously these numbers are startling. How common are these cases, but really more importantly, I wanna, then, delve into how parents can keep their kids safe, so thanks so much for being with us. Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. You know these cases are, unfortunately very common. I’m a mother of a nine year old who loves gaming and has several consoles, and it’s so easy for a predator to make a fake account and contact the child online. Unfortunately, this is the new playground. It’s a digital playground, it’s the new, don’t take candy from strangers conversation, and as this study eluded to, 97% of children are playing video games and 25% of them are playing with people they don’t even know. We’re all scared, what can we do? What can we do right now? Well first of all, don’t let your child have a gaming console in their room. Keep it in a common family area, they don’t need to be playing online, chatting with strangers after bedtime, because they will. Also, make sure your children know that nobody online needs to know their name, their address, where they go to school, what activities they participate in, their age, nothing. They need to know nothing about them beyond their screen name. And if at any time something creepy pops up, they need to be able to come to you and tell you, and feel comfortable knowing that you’re not going to yell at them or judge them, or return that Xbox. You just want to know so you can keep them safe. They need know that these things are really happening to children their age, to teens and tweens, and you’re there to help them. I’m curious if there are specific types of games and also this concept of grooming, how, I understand, these predators are going online, they’re observing the behaviors and these certain games, and then targeting children based on that. So how, as a parent, are you gonna know, well this is a high risk game for my kid to be playing with these potential predators out there? Absolutely, there’s no way for parent to be everywhere that children are online all the time. But just like you wouldn’t send your child to a school before touring it first, meeting a teacher, at least, don’t give your child a gaming console unless you have examined the parental controls. Know what sort of abilities it has. Can you chat online? Can you go online? Can you stream live, is there a camera? Can you share photos? Know the potential risks. You don’t have to know how to pass every level, but know the risks and talk to your children about them in an age appropriate way. If they’re really young, talk about trippy people, how not everybody is who they say they are online. When they get older, you can get into the more serious stuff because they have to know. It is real, and it is happening, and it is your job to keep them safe.