Online Gaming and Predator Risk

A story this week about an accused child predator in New Jersey has a twist in it that should give pause to a lot of parents out there.

gameboy-advanceA Flemington New Jersey man who was arrested last year on child pornography charges was charged again, this time for trying to have an 11-year old girl send him nude photos. The catch? He used a Gameboy to find and contact the girl. According to NJ Acting Attorney General John Hoffman:

“This case is a cautionary tale for parents, who need to be aware that their children may encounter sexual predators online in places they would not expect. Pirretti allegedly used a children’s game and the chat feature offered by this gaming network to try to target this innocent young girl for sexual exploitation. Fortunately, her parents learned of his alleged predatory behavior and alerted law enforcement.”

A Gameboy is thought of by most as a harmless toy for children, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, any device that has internet access can be used by predators to contact children.

It’s important for parents to start educating kids about the risks of online activity before ever granting internet access, even via a handheld gaming system. It’s equally important for parents to be vigilant about what kids are doing online and whom they’re communicating with.

We realize that it’s difficult to talk to young kids about the existence of predators and other online characters who are up to no good, but it’s essential. This of it this way: if your child isn’t mature enough to hear about the risks that exist in the online world, perhaps she’s not mature enough to have unsupervised internet access.

Better safe than sorry.


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