How much do you really know about the video games your kids are playing? It’s no surprise that social media would be a large platform for traffickers to lure in victims, but did you know video games are another platform your children may be being targeted? Video games are a rising platform traffickers are using to lure in, groom, and isolate victims. With access to chat rooms, kids and teens have the option to play and talk with strangers at any time.
There are a total of 227 million video game players in the United States ranging from all ages.  What age range would you suspect is playing the most video games? Teens ages 15-20? That’s what I thought. However, 20% of gamers are under the age of 18 and over 80% of users are over the age of 18, with an average age of 29!  What does this mean? Our kids, if optimizing video game features to play and chat with random players, are more than likely playing video games with adults rather than peers their own age. With live chat features, conversing with strangers is becoming more and more common.
Growing up, my parents honed in me the phrase “stranger danger.” You don’t talk to people you don’t know, especially people online. However, times have changed. We now live in a digital age where the internet is actually where most people interact with their friends and reach out to make new friends. Studies done by Pew Research show, 70% of teens will accept a friend request and connect with someone they do not know . So how do we ensure our kids are playing video games and apps safely?
Below are some popular video games to be monitoring, as they are heavily used by traffickers :
- Call of Duty
- Among us
Each of these games has the option to play with random players and converse with them in a private chat room. Once traffickers get someone into a private chat room, they begin to gain their trust, make false promises, and begin to isolate themselves.
Here are some steps from Internet Safety 101 that you can take to discuss, monitor, and enable video game safety settings :
- Set time limits to only allow your child to only play for a set amount of time.
- Filter mature language.
- Determine if your child is mature enough for voice chat.
- Be aware of voice masking technology – predators can use it to pretend to be someone they are not.
- Limit the players your child plays with to only parent-approved players.
- Consider disabling usage of webcam.
- Make sure your child isn’t using a username with their full name.
- Remind your child not to share any personal information.
- Discuss with your child if another player is making them uncomfortable to block them and talk to you about it.
In addition to video game platforms, here are other apps commonly used by traffickers to watch out for :
- Plenty of fish
According to Fight the New Drug, 65% of underage victims recruited online in 2020’s active criminal sex trafficking cases were recruited through Facebook, while 14% were recruited through Instagram, and 8% through Snapchat .
Here are some steps you can take to discuss, monitor, and enable app and social media safety settings:
- Discuss Usage: Go to settings and navigate what apps are being used the most. Discuss time restrictions on screen time and apps.
- Enable Privacy Settings: Go to settings and turn off location tracking for all apps.
- Use Parental Controls: This will help your child from reaching inappropriate sites. Implement time limits on your child’s device so they cannot exceed time restrictions or speak to anyone past a certain hour.
- Be Aware: What apps or platforms are your kids using with chat features? Have conversations with your children about who they are talking to online and the dangers of engaging with people they don’t know.
- Additional Resources: Download Google Family Link App to help your family create healthy digital habits using social media.
It’s important to be aware of what our children are consuming and who they are interacting with. In an age where our children are interacting with friends and strangers online, we can be active in ensuring their safety. For additional reading on how to stay safe while gaming read Norton’s article here and download our free media safety resources here.