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  • Sexual Predators Use Online Games Minecraft, Fortnite To Lure Kids

    Even social media apps like Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook could be a venue for targeting kids.
    by Rachel Perez .
Sexual Predators Use Online Games Minecraft, Fortnite To Lure Kids
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Law enforcement officials in New Jersey have arrested 24 alleged sexual predators for using online games, such as Minecraft and Fortnite, to lure kids to meet them in real life for sex. 

    Members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force set up online profiles pretending to be typical 14- to 15-year-old kids, and were approached online by grown men posing as someone else. These predators spent a few days to a week keeping up the pretense before starting to try to convince their target to meet with them in real life, NJ.com reports. 

    Safety and security concerns have always been an issue when it comes to online games for kids. Just last June, a mom shared on Facebook an alarming image of her 7-year-old daughter's virtual character being sexually assaulted. Her daughter was playing Roblox, a multiplayer online platform for kids ages 7 and older and dubbed as the "number one gaming website for kids."

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    Minecraft has been famous among kids since 2011, as it allows them to explore, craft, and build their own worlds. It can be played across a lot of game platforms, even via a smartphone. It requires parents' permission if the child is under age 13.

    Fortnite, on the other hand, is a game about survival and may appeal to older children. Children under 12 years old are advised not to play the game, though it's not a restriction. Kids can still sign up and play even without their parent's permission. 

    Minecraft and Fortnite have been a platform for online sexual predators using the games' chat feature, where players can talk to each other and exchange photos. 

    Messaging apps like Kik have also been used by predators to approach potential victims, while apps like Wishbone, Discord, and even social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram can be venues for online sexual predators to target kids. 

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    A lot of these online venues have age requirement, though users could always enter a fake birth date that's older (or younger) to qualify for the age requirement. 

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    New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal warned parents to always be vigilant when it comes to their children's online activity. "It’s critical that parents talk to their children about social media and chat apps to let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seemed to be."

    Turning off the chat feature is one step toward blocking sexually-explicit advances on kids playing these favorite online games. Know what your kids are downloading, playing, and watching online. Explore and understand how the parental controls work, if any, and always review privacy settings. 

    "These arrests serve as a sobering reminder that parents should closely monitor their child's online activity," New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said. Though the incident happened in the U.S., it could very easily have happened anywhere. 

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