Written by Rich Wistocki, parentingtodayskids.com
Detective Richard Wistocki offers over 20 years of law enforcement experience. His current assignment is to handle Internet Crimes involving Children. His passion is concentrated in teaching parents how to parent their children while online. Visit him online at besureconsulting.com.
Make sure you are protecting your children when they game online.
While I have investigated hundreds of cases in my 25 years of law enforcement, there is one thing about child predators that remains constant: predators will go where the kids are. Whether it is in the local park, school, camp, or Facebook, you can be sure that a predator will lurk there at one time or another. I want to let parents know: 1) the perfect time to discuss this topic with their child and 2) when it is and is not appropriate for your child to talk to someone online. As in my previous articles, you will find me putting most of the blame or responsibility on the parent.
1. “Everyone Online Is a Liar.”
My basic rule for kids and adults is when you cannot verify a person’s first name, last name, where they go to school, where they live, and their phone number, “Everyone Online is a Liar.” With this baseline you will make your child and yourself safe. However, I still find adults believing scams on Craig’s List. I don’t get it. As far as these “Nigerian Scams” go, you can always Google that person’s name, email, phone number, company name, and put the term “scam or fraud” after it, and see what comes up relative to that particular “Nigerian Scam.” Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
2. Watch Out For Mixed Messages to Your Kids…From You.
As for your children, ask yourself if you allowed them to play on websites, such as Webkins, Club Penguin, or Runescape when they were really young. Yes, these websites are totally safe and they work really hard at keeping children who game on their site safe. I have a question for you though: what do you call a website where you can talk to people you don’t know and communicate with them at any part of the day? IT’S A CHATROOM! As parents you must ask yourselves: do you allow them to talk to children (alleged child) while playing in these youngster games, where are they going to go when they are 13, 14, and 15? So, you see, sometimes, we send them mixed messages and tell them, “You better not be talking to anyone you don’t know online!” But if you allow them to play in these games unsupervised or not monitored, you are sending them a wrong and confusing message when they get older.
3. “Innocent” Sites May Not Be That Innocent.
Let’s look at gaming online. Games, such as Call of Duty, Minecraft, or Runescape, allow kids/adults to game with others all over the world. If you have a child younger than 11 years old, you should not allow them to be playing online games, such as Call of Duty, late at night. If your child plays live with a head set, you might as well let him hang out at the local bar in your neighborhood. That is the type of language that goes on in that headset after 8:00 pm at night. Try this yourself. After 8-9 pm, take away the headset, and listen to the type of language that comes out of the console’s speaker system. It will blow you away. But just remember, it’s not your children’s fault because you allowed them to game late at night, and you thought, “My kid is only playing a game. It keeps him busy and he enjoys it. Why not?” Well, step inside that world of theirs, and try to see what is actually going on.
4. Set Rules about Talking To People Online.
Finally, have a talk with your children about chatting with people they meet in the gaming system. If they are gaming with people online, warn them about people who may attempt to take them off the platform. I mean if someone wants to switch them over to Instant Messaging or texting, they have bad intentions for your child. You see, if the predator – whether a sexual predator or a fraudster/scammer – can get your kid to do things off the platform without you knowing, he/she may get your child to do things you would never imagine.