A recent Twitter Q&A session hosted by the FBI and our friends at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), brought forth one of the most hard-hitting quotes of our times from the FBI, “online child sexual exploitation is a global threat to children of all ages.”
In a follow-up interview, FBI Special Agent Mara Schneider stated, “Predators are contacting young people online through video games, through social media apps, developing a relationship and then convincing (the kids) to send explicit material, like photos or videos.”
“It could happen to any child at any time.”
It’s safe to say that video games are a lot different today than they were even just 10 years ago. A child isn’t simply sitting in the basement and playing a game with a friend from down the street. A child is playing games on their laptop, phone, tablet, and Xbox – and thanks to in-game voice or messaging, they’re possibly gaming and chatting with a 36-year-old adult, 3,000 miles away, pretending to be a teen.
It’s never been more urgent for parents and caregivers to educate themselves and their children about these threats and online safety.
Our FREE ebook – Online Gaming: Tips for Protecting Children – provides insight to help parents and caregivers better understand the dangers that come with gaming online, and how to have open and age-appropriate conversations with children and teens about online safety.
Here are a few quick tips from the eBook to help get you started:
- Talk to your child and remind them that not everyone is who they say they are, or who their online picture represents. No one should be fooled by a profile picture.
- Talk to your child about what sort of questions they could be asked in a chat that may be red flags. Remind children that they should discuss with you before ever accepting anything for free from someone online. Roleplay these situations to prepare children and teens.
- Teach children how to block other players on the gaming platform and how to report harassment or inappropriate behavior. Talk with them about bullying behaviors online.
- Check the privacy settings on the device (phone, tablet, console) or in the game. Adults should ensure filters are in place to weed out inappropriate language in chats or deactivate voice chats entirely.
- Before allowing your child to download, purchase, or play a game, check the age rating. Some games geared toward older children have stripped-down versions for younger children.
- Games like Minecraft have specific servers for younger children – think of it as a supervised “backyard” meant for young children to play the game without fear of being exposed to inappropriate content.
Learn more about how you can protect children playing online games by downloading your free copy of Online Gaming: Tips for Protecting Children at www.BeauBidenFoundation.org/OnlineGaming.
And please, be sure to have those open and age-appropriate conversations about the dangers of the Internet and online safety with the children and teens in your life.