There are countless Apps being used by children. But how can we know which Apps are safe for children to use. When allowing children to have access to a digital device, a parents first concern should be, what are the vulnerabilities my child might be exposed to. The online world is a doorway in to the home. A doorway through which, 3.2 billion people can use as a means to access a child and open up a channel of communication. A false sense of security can lead a child playing a game, chatting with friends, and also strangers. Will a child even realise who they are talking to?
It was revealed this week that 24 men were arrested in New Jersey, for allegedly being online predators. These men came from all walks of life and ranged in ages from 21 to 58. One of the arrested individuals was a Police Sergeant.
All of those arrested had been caught following a sting operation where police created profiles of 14 and 15-year-old boys and girls. The men believed they were engaging with young teens online, their own profiles were also of teens and young adults. Parents need to be aware that this is happening in popular games and apps.
So far this year we have seen a huge spike in the number of children playing Fortnite. This gave us some cause for concern. The game is played with other players online. The players can communicate with each other in squads. When we asked children, do you really know who all the other gamers are, you play Fortnite with? The response was “Not every time”.
It was interesting to hear the children's response when we asked, would you let your parents listen to a conversation between the other players. The answer was an overwhelming “NO”. The reason, the language used in the game by players would be the kind that wouldn't really be suitable. This suggests to us that many children are playing the game and parents are unaware not only who their children are talking to, but what children are even saying to each other.
You can be whoever you want to be in an online environment. It is very easy to hide your identity, age, even your gender. Games like Fortnite need players to interact with each other and come together as part of the game. This game is considerably well put together. Fortnite has been developed with gamers aged 12 years and upwards in mind. However, boys and girls only 5, or 6 years old, Junior and Senior Infants in National Schools are playing the game. Who are these younger children playing the game with? It would be difficult for parents to know who all the players are, considering there are around 100 at the start of each game. These players also can change in each game.
It is regrettable to see that Fortnite has been nominated in the list of Apps used by Online Predators to target children. But it appears alongside other popular Apps, such as TicToc formerly Musicaly, and Minecraft. These platforms make the list and the reason is obvious. They are popular with children. If someone wants to access children, then this is where an Online Predator will go to get access to a child.
We are not advising you to just go and pull the child off these Apps and Games. This teaches a child nothing. Children must learn to be able to identify on online threat. This can only be done with the help parents. If you are permitting your child to play any game where players verbally interact with each other, only permit the game to be played in a way that you can hear the conversations taking place. Get to know who the children are playing with. Online Predators generally don't introduce themselves to children as “Hello I'm the Pedo Guy, can we be friends”. Children need their parent's life experience and guidance to help them learn to be able to identify, who or what could be a threat, and what is safe.
The poll we posted on Facebook today, asks parents a very simple question. “Fortnite is one of a number of platforms, currently being used by online predators to get access to children. Are you aware at all times, who your children interact with while playing the game?
We would like to see all parents take part in the poll and be honest in their answer. This information will help us to identify ways to keep parents better informed. You can take part in the poll by following this LINK.
Enjoy the rest of the Weekend everyone !!!!