STATEN ISLAND, NY – While online gaming is a fun way to connect, compete and interact with others, it can also be a hunting ground for sexual predators who use the platforms to stalk and groom young, warns the FBI.
“Online gaming gives predators a logical topic to start a conversation with their intended victims: their shared interest in gambling,” the FBI told Enough is Enough, a national nonprofit involved in the fight for internet security. “Predators may pose as friendly adults or age-appropriate peers to bond with potential victims. They often befriend children by giving them game advice or providing game currency.
But an informed and equipped parent can help create a safer and more positive online gambling experience, according to Enough is Enough, whose website, Internetsafety101.org, offers tips and explanations about the world of gambling for parents.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 64% of US households own a device used to play video games, with children and teens under the age of 18 accounting for more than 28% of all gamers.
Additional dangers and issues that parents should be aware of include: the violence and sexual content often depicted in games; the presence of cyberbullies targeting gamers; voice masking technology that allows predators to disguise their real voice; and the addictive nature of online games, which can interfere with family interactions, homework and friendships, according to Enough is Enough.
So what can parents do?
Parents should be proactive and teach their children about protective measures, Enough is Enough says on its website.
Children and adolescents should be encouraged to:
- Only play and use voice chat with friends they know in real life.
- Kick/block any players who make them uncomfortable.
- Never share personally identifiable information (birthday, address, school name).
Additionally, parents should set privacy settings, age-appropriate filters, and parental control on the game device (or using the device settings if the game is accessed by an app).
Parents should also learn and play the game with their child, so they understand all the features and potential pitfalls of granting access to the game, the organization advises.