WATERLOO — An important reminder for parents to talk with your kids about their online interactions, especially now that many include online videogames as part of their day.
Technology has given rise to popular multiplayer online open-world games, but it has also given child predators and traffickers an anonymous platform to interact with kids.
Nicky Carswell, Coordinator of the Anti-Human Trafficking Program at the Sexual Assault Support Centre Waterloo Region, has worked on many cases where children were lured and abused through unknowingly interacting with a predator through a videogame.
She warns parents that popular games—like Roblox or Fortnite—can give predators easy access to children. Fortnite in particular boast well over 125 million players from all over and of all ages.
Yes @WRPS_ICEunit. Open world games such as Fortnite are becoming increasingly popular for targeting and luring youth for the purpose of sexual exploitation. #KnowHumanTrafficking #ItHappensHere https://t.co/8z4DBsEuvX— Anti-Human Trafficking Support WR (@HTsupportWR) December 9, 2019
She says the games can lead children to unknowingly befriend a predator or trafficker. From there, they may try to "groom" the child into sharing personal information out of a "false sense of trust" or by bribing them with the game's online currency.
"Then next thing you know you're adding them to your personal accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, maybe you're phoning each other, and then maybe you're meeting up outside of the game."
"Understanding the side apps, like Twitch, Discord, Omegle, and teaching kids that it's okay to report, and it's not okay to be ask for favours like nudes, or to give out personal information."
According to Carswell, parents have to talk with their children about their online habits, and to teach them to never add anonymous players to their personal social media accounts. Parents can also have their kids play in areas where they can monitor their conversation with players.
"If they're hearing their kids talk about where their parents are, and whether or not they have a partner, or their age and where they live; those aren't necessary to play the game."
Parents can also look into the games parental controls and disable chat functions if desired.
Most important thing to do, is to have these conversations in the first place. She says if you find evidence that someone is attempting to groom your child, you can report the player through the game. You should also contact Waterloo Regional Police ICE (Internet Child Exploitation) Unit.