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Children being lured into meeting up with strangers online is nothing new, and is something parents need to be very aware of.  However, the latest method that predators are using to meet young kids is through online gaming.

Online gaming is a complex and wonderful world of fantasy, but as players get younger and younger, there is a risk for child predators preying on them.  Even teenagers can be lured into meeting under false pretenses because not only are the predators skilled at what they do, but the teens have a hard time separating fantasy play from reality.

Since most games allow users to play in their virtual world with people they don’t know, including adults, it opens up the opportunity for predictors to become “friends” with the child and work to set up a meeting in person. They may tell the child that they are the same age as them or bribe them with freebies for the game. They also “groom” the child by becoming friends with their other friends and building a “relationship” so they feel comfortable telling them things and eventually meeting up with them.

Parents need to be aware of who their kids are interacting with, whether it is in person, in school, in their neighborhood, on social media platforms, and even in their online gaming. Parental settings can be controlled by their phone using an app. From the setting within the PlayStation menu, you can go to Parent Controls/Family Management and from there you can add restrictions. You can limit chat rooms to where the child has to start it, and they are not able to join or accept chats from strangers.

Whether you have a young child or a teenager who is playing online games, it is important to know the ins and out of the system and games they are playing, as well as who they are communicating with through the games. Talk about the ways that strangers could be trying to communicate with them in an unsafe way and make them aware that some people may try to get personal information out of them while playing the game. Also make sure they are not exchanging pictures with adults online.

If your child is contacted by a predator and has been asked to meet in person, collect evidence, take screenshots of the conversations, report it to the platform that the communication took place on, and file a police report.