Online Gaming Threatens Kids Safety
"I've had students in middle school that we've identified as having relationships with people that they've never met for 6 months to a year and parents not even know," says Detective Joey Melvin who's the School Resource Officer at Georgetown Middle School.
Detective Melvin has seen firsthand the dangers that online gaming presents to children. "I've seen it evolve from where it began online to the point where I've actually had people come up and drive from 3 or 4 states away to meet up with these children so it's very concerning, says Melvin."
Fortnite is a game that takes children and adults to another version of Earth via their smartphones and tablets. There they must try to stay alive as long as possible and often end up making friends with other players. It's these friendships formed through online gaming that can threaten a child's safety.
Detective Melvin says that Fortnite seems to be the most popular right now, but other games like Minecraft and even farming simulators allow for the same type of online communication between players.
When asked if they play online games like Fortnite, almost every child in a class of about thirty said 'yes'.
6th grader Bradley Chavez says he has a friend that he's never met in person. When asked how old this friend is or where he is, Chavez says he doesn't know. Chavez also adds that he's not worried about talking to strangers on these games. "If they ask me what my name is, and my address, and my state, I don't tell them because that's not safe," says Chavez.
"I'm aware of when she's playing and I try to monitor that as much as I can," says Karen Oliphant who has three children of her own. She's also the assistant principal at Georgetown Middle School and it's not just her own children or students that she's concerned about. Oliphant recalls a conversation with a friend's son, "He knows that he has a son that he has to take care of and he has to go change his diaper so he has to put the game on pause. He communicates back and forth."
School officials say parents can monitor what their kids are doing on their phones by asking them to take the headphones off and even playing along with them. Parents who think their child may be engaging with a predator online are advised to contact their local police department.