Cyber Safety: Predators are targeting kids on popular online games

6 News Cyber Safety

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Tonight, we are here for you kicking off our month-long series dedicated to keeping our children safe online.

Even young children playing games rated “E” for everyone can be at risk. 6 News recently spoke with a Michigan State Police investigator in the internet crimes unit.

Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, Zoomerang, Discord and Kik messenger.

If even one of these sounds familiar, you’ll want to pay attention.

These are just a few of the top games and apps children as young as 6 are using. Even if you think your child is too young for social media, chances are they are already socializing online,” said MSP trooper Sarah Corlett.”I don’t think parents realize what Roblox really is.”

For those of you who don’t, it’s one of the most popular apps among children ages 6 to 12. It’s a system of hundreds of games where kids create their own avatar and identity, building a virtual life, and interacting with others, playing the game along the way.

“Some of the people on Roblox chatting, they will try to get kids to meet them out somewhere so you have to be careful about that as a parent.”

Corlett says these days, similar dangers lurk in virtually every virtual game.

“Kids can be sending out information, you address how old they are birthdays and people can get that information pretty quickly.”

She says young kids assume they’re playing with other children their own age, but that’s sometimes not the case.

Many are predators hoping to lure children out of cyberspace and into dangerous situations in the real world.

“You don’t know who’s behind these screens.”

And that’s exactly what happened in a recent case that landed before state police. An 11-year-old girl connected with “a friend” she thought was her own age but turned out to be a man in his 20’s.

“She did send pictures of herself to this adult. They met on discord and then started talking on skype and Kik messenger. They lure you to other chat forums to talk more in private. It was on her school-issued Chromebook that all of this stuff was happening.”

She says within the last year, Chromebooks have majorly come into play as schools across the state and country distributed them to countless students to help with at-home online learning.

“You can get Roblox and Fortnite and Discord and all the social media like Tik Toc and Zoomerang that can all be downloaded on the Chromebooks so you have to be careful. Just because it’s a school-issued Chromebook, doesn’t mean your kid is always doing school-issued things.”

Trooper Corlett says chat apps like Discord and Kik messenger are just as dangerous as games and while young children love to create what they think are harmless videos on the popular app Zoomerang and uploading them to sites like Tik Tok, she says they could be telling predators exactly how to find them.

“People who are perpetrating against kids and see where they posted the last video and even if it’s outside and they are familiar with the area they can say oh that looks like the McDonald’s in Lansing, so you have to be careful even with stuff like that even of you don’t have your location services on.”

So no matter how many safety measures you think you have in place, she says it’s important to sit down and actually play with your child and see what they’re doing online and to have real conversations with your kids before they ever pick up a device log on.

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