ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Every day kids play video games online, competing with each other and chatting. Now, Federal Law Enforcement officials are raising the alarm that your children may be tricked into giving personal information to complete strangers. That’s where the danger lies for children who participate.
“Anybody who can approach a child, on any type of game, on any type of app, is a risk,” Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI in Rochester Sandra Berchtold said.
Games like Fortnite and Minecraft are some of the most popular. Berchtold says any platform connected to the internet could cause a problem.
“We just recently heard about a child that was watching Youtube of someone steaming themselves playing a game, there was a link in that channel. The child clicked it and that’s when the predator started chatting with the child,” Berchtold said. “We have to identify who is on the other side and get rid of him.”
Berchtold said there are many ways predators can lure personal information from kids and teens.
“It’s just about endearing themselves to the child. “What did you do in school today?” And then maybe the child will mention the name of the school so he can then dig a little deeper in that. You know, send pictures back and forth, the predator may have fake pictures of themselves, so he may look like a young child as well. so, they start creating a friendship,” Berchtold said.
Agents said if parents feel their child has been talking to a stranger online and are worried, to have a conversation with them even if it may feel uncomfortable.
“First, don’t blame the child, the child is the victim of the predator from the other side, make sure you preserve whatever computer game or app or phone they communicated on and get it to law enforcement because that’s how we’re going to find out who’s on the other side,” said Berchtold.
What can you do to keep your children safe, especially if they are visiting networking sites? The FBI gave the following tips:
- Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep your Internet computer in an open, common room of the house.
- Tell your kids why it’s so important not to disclose personal information online.
- Check your kids’ profiles and what they post online.
- Read and follow the safety tips provided on the sites.
- Report inappropriate activity to the website or law enforcement immediately.
- Explain to your kids that once images are posted online they lose control of them and can never get them back.
- Only allow your kids to post photos or any type of personally identifying information on websites with your knowledge and consent.
- Instruct your kids to use privacy settings to restrict access to profiles so only the individuals on their contact lists are able to view their profiles.
- Remind kids to only add people they know in real life to their contact lists.
- Encourage kids to choose appropriate screen names or nicknames.
- Talk to your kids about creating strong passwords.
- Visit social networking websites with your kids, and exchange ideas about acceptable versus potentially risky websites.
- Ask your kids about the people they are communicating with online.
- Make it a rule with your kids that they can never give out personal information or meet anyone in person without your prior knowledge and consent. If you agree to a meeting between your child and someone they met online, talk to the parents/guardians of the other individual first and accompany your kids to the meeting in a public place.
- Encourage your kids to consider whether a message is harmful, dangerous, hurtful, or rude before posting or sending it online, and teach your kids not to respond to any rude or harassing remarks or messages that make them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and to show you the messages instead.
- Educate yourself on the websites, software, and apps that your child uses.
- Don’t forget cell phones! They often have almost all the functionality of a computer.
Click Here for the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge, educational program for students in third through eighth grades that covers age-appropriate topics such as cyber-bullying, passwords, malware, social media, and more.