Police who specialize in internet crimes against children are warning parents about the dangers of gaming chat rooms. Pedophiles know children can easily be lured into a chat room, where they can begin the grooming process.
“Parents need to know that online predators are sophisticated–it’s like a job to them and they work at it” warned a Seattle police detective in a recent meeting to educate parents.
The ability to chat with other players exists in all online games: Roblox, Minecraft, Xbox, Playstation and many more. Chat rooms are game features that allow players to hold private conversations. (Any parent can guess why this could be a risky situation for kids.)
Roblox game gone bad
Recently a dad and former rugby player from the UK, Iain Morrison, found “vile messages from a predator” on the Roblox game that his 8 year old son played on an iPad. Roblox is a popular gaming site for kids and teens, with more than 30 million unique monthly users.
The Roblox chat feature allows strangers, and potential pedophiles, to directly contact and communicate with young kids. Furthermore, in most games, if your child allows a stranger to “friend” him, he’ll be notified whenever your child is playing.
Mr. Morrison had heard some concerning news about predators hunting for kids on these online games, and asked his young sons if they had Roblox on their iPads. They did, and he started to play to check it out (probably a good idea for every parent!).
Posing as an 8 year old boy, he entered a room with a pool and was approached by two strangers who asked his age and his gender. Then they asked him to follow them into their house and bedroom where they “asked me to lay down on top of them and then they started with the sexual movements.”
After that shocking experience with online pedophiles, Morrison deleted the game from his kids’ iPad and encouraged other parents to consider doing the same.
Important info about online pedophiles
“Where kids play, predators prey” is sadly true for online gaming. Child predators encourage each other, share information, and help each other evade police detection.
As reported by the BBC, researchers at Swansea University studied language patterns on recorded logs of convicted pedophiles. Their findings busted several myths:
- Pedophiles don’t always use sexually explicit language. They often ask a lot of personal information about where kids live, if their parents both work, how long they get to play, etc. (In a previous post, detectives warned that kids often unconsciously give out several bits of crucial information to strangers as they focus on playing their game.) Predators often strive to bond with the kids and develop trust.
- Propositions can come quickly and catch kids off guard. Sometimes within minutes the process can go from “hi–what’s your name?” to cyber-sexual abuse (as in the above Roblox story).
- Despite popular belief, “most groomers did not pretend to be children and were open about being adults when they approached potential victims” with an age range from 60 down to 18 years of age.
According to Internet Safety 101, online gaming gives predators the opportunity to build a shared online experience leading to a relationship of trust and sharing of personal information. In many cases, pedophiles seek to turn kids against their parents, claiming that they are the “only one who understands” your child.
Young children find it difficult to comprehend that people who seem so nice and helpful in their games could be out to hurt or take advantage of them.
So what’s the takeaway?
- Every game your child plays online can be populated with child sexual predators and inappropriate or pornographic content.
- Young children (under age 12) may not be mature enough to play online games and protect themselves from the inappropriate advances of pedophiles. You may want to limit younger children to video or computer games that are not connected to the internet. Or ones that limit the players to trusted friends you know, like realms on Minecraft.
- If you allow your children to play online games, talk to them about the potential dangers of chatting with players they don’t know in real life (i.e. strangers).
- Follow these 6 tips from The Dadcade to keep your child safe while gaming online:1. Monitor your child while gaming online
2. Teach your kids how to deal with cyber bullies
3. Protect personal information
4. Effectively use parental controls
5. Do some research into the online community that plays the game
6. Downloads/installs are always handled by adults
Here are some great tips for setting up parental controls on online gaming consoles.
No parent wants their child to be sexualized or traumatized while playing a fun, online game. But no parent should ignore the dangers of online pedophiles either.
It’s a lot of work to parent in the digital age. It takes more oversight, more research, and more time to keep children educated and safe. But kids are worth our very best efforts! And hopefully we’re making your job a bit easier.