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Friday, July 04, 2008

Predation in online gaming

Police have been saying that predators go where kids go, and they've been saying it since before there was an Internet. So the "place" that the news media and online-safety advocates are increasingly focusing on is online gaming. I first linked you to a story about this in January 2006 (see "Teen exploited while gaming"); in May, a report out of Cincinnati saying the FBI was investigating "a number of cases in southern Ohio" concerning Xbox Live; and last month we heard from a US attorney in Massachusetts that cases of man-to-minor predation involving World of Warcraft were under investigation. This week USATODAY reported on online-game predation cases in Utah and Michigan. Where the Xbox Live gaming community is concerned, "Microsoft trains police at national conferences," according to USATODAY. Parents need to know that "Xbox has password-protected 'family settings' that allow parents to turn off Internet access or track content and contacts. PlayStation and Wii also have such controls." I was delighted to learn last summer that there is some "neighborhood watch," or community policing, activity in Xbox Live (see this feature) and hope to see more evidence of this other form of protection that can be empowering for kids. For some context around all this, see this editorial too. The No. 1 message for parents in all this is the importance of teaching our kids to be alert and responsible wherever and whenever they're in places where lots of people interact, online or offline. Alert about what? See "How to recognize grooming" and "How social influencing works."

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