PITTSBURGH – We have a warning for you if your child enjoys playing video games online. Predators target children who play on these platforms. The FBI says it’s not about if but when your child will encounter a predator – if you haven’t set parental controls. Find out how to protect your children. 11 Inquiry Angie Moreschi has a story that all parents should know.
It’s not IF but WHEN
Online predators know that children play these games often unsupervised. They hide behind fake profiles looking for opportunities to lure them into compromising situations.
From Roblox to Fortnite, kids like Shayna Gerson, 5, and her brother Michael, 7, can’t get enough of these online games.
“As soon as he comes home from school he wants to jump on it and start playing with friends,” mom Jill Gerson said.
Gerson tries to stay close to watch what’s going on and had to intervene a few times when she heard inappropriate language, but says she probably should do more.
“It’s worrying because sometimes I don’t know who he’s playing with or what’s going on in there,” she said.
Unfortunately, more is happening than many realize.
We chatted with 7-year-old Michael to ask if anyone had approached him on these platforms before:
ANGIE Have you ever had a nutcase or a stranger approach you?
ANGIE What did they say?
MICHAEL: They know where I live.
ANGIE Were you scared?
MICHAEL: Aah, sort of.
ANGIE What have you done?
MICHAEL: I just quit the game.
ANGIE Did you tell your mother?
Thank goodness it ended there, but it’s amazing for parents to hear how close these encounters are.
“Very scary. Very scary,” Gerson said.
FBI: It’s not a game
The FBI produced a public service announcement warning parents of the dangers.
“It’s not a game. It could happen to your child,” the narrator warns, as the video shows children playing video games with chat messages from strangers popping up.
“I always tell parents if you don’t have parental controls or if you don’t watch what your kids are doing online, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when they meet the ‘one of those predators,’ said Tim Wolford. , special agent for surveillance of the FBI.
Wolford heads the Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force in Pittsburgh and says predators are constantly creating fake profiles to attract children.
“It might just be flattery when they say to the kid, ‘Hey, your profile picture is really beautiful. I would like another photo. ‘ And then they will start to slowly guide them down this path of sending more and more inappropriate images and content, ”Wolford explained.
A major clue that something is fishy is when kids are asked to move on to another platform or a private chat room. Once this happens, things often escalate into what the FBI calls “sextortion” and children often feel trapped.
“In the worst case, what happens is that once they have that picture, they know the kids won’t want to be released – then they threaten that kid, ‘Hey, I’m going to put this on. available to your parents “or” I ‘I’ll make it available to all your friends’, unless you send me even more inappropriate content. “
TIPS to protect your children
The first thing you can do to block predators is to put in place strict parental controls.
We went through Michael’s Fortnite game settings with his mother and adjusted the controls, so strangers could no longer contact him – an important step in giving his mother a little more peace of mind.
“He loves it and I would hate to take it away from him completely, but at the same time, you still have to watch,” Gerson said.
It is also important to discuss this with your child. Let them know that there are strangers who might try to trick them into sending them inappropriate photos, and if anyone approaches them, they should let you know immediately. Make sure you tell your child that he won’t be in trouble and that even if he is embarrassed or thinks he made a mistake, it is still safe to talk to each other.
More FBI tips to protect children from online predators
- Learn about the websites, software, games, and apps your child uses.
- Check their profiles and posts on social media and games. Have conversations about what is appropriate to say or share.
- Explain to your kids that once the images or comments are posted online, they can be shared with anyone and never really go away.
- Make sure your kids use privacy settings to restrict access to their online profiles.
- Tell your kids to be extra careful when communicating with people online that they don’t know in real life.
- Encourage children to choose appropriate pseudonyms and create strong passwords.
- Make sure your kids can’t manage to meet someone they’ve met online without your knowledge and supervision.
- Emphasize to your children that making any kind of threat online, even if they think it’s a joke, is a crime.
- Immediately report any inappropriate contact between an adult and your child to law enforcement. Also notify the site they were using.
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