Predators are using Fortnite to lure kids. Cops say parents need to worry
When I was a child, my parents warned me about talking to or following random strangers on the playground or at grocery stores. Today’s parents, however, have more to worry about. Predators may hide behind shady profiles on social media.
Online Sexual Predators Arrested
It’s scary to think about how many phone apps, including some video games like Fortnite and Minecraft, have opened the door for adult predators to communicate with minors. (1)
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has recently announced the arrests of 24 alleged predators and warned the public about adults who are trying to take advantage of teens and kids online. (2)
Sexual predators can hide on the corners of social media and lurk around children when they are the most vulnerable. Children often don’t even know that they are adults, and certainly have no idea that they are dangerous. Some of these online sexual predators, a police sergeant included, posed as teens acting as harmless peers. (3)
All suspects are men, however, their age and walks in life vary. Most used multiple apps to reach out to children.
Police Monitoring Online Platforms To Protect Children
When the men were caught, they were chatting with 14-15-year-old boys and girls, but in reality, they were set up by the police and were chatting with detectives of the New Jersey State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The task force trains detectives how to maintain an online profile to monitor apps, including apps used for hooking up, such as Tinder and Grindr. However, they can check many other apps and platforms, including Kik, Wishbone, Tumblr and video games, such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Discord.
While it is comforting to know that detectives can access these sites and aim to protect our children, it is also a sobering reminder that children and teens may not always be safe online and their online activity should be monitored.
Age Limits May Not Be Enough
While some apps, such as Tinder, have an 18+ requirement, it is not difficult to lie about one’s age, which sets based on what’s listed on Facebook profiles, if the app is synced. Not to mention that since June 2016, after parents complained, anyone over 13 could sign up for Facebook.
Other non-dating, social media apps and platforms, such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat also have a minimum age requirement of 13 and over. While they may sound serious about their rules, there is no for sure way to keep younger children off them, as anyone can enter a false birthday to access the app.
How To Protect Your Children
Parents can take note of the apps their kids are using, and monitor their behavior. If they seem anxious when a topic or app is raised, or seem too wrapped up in something, or change behavior, it can be a red flag.
It is also important that parents talk honestly with their children and teens about social media and chat apps. Building trust with your child is important, so they listen to you, are able to avoid problems, and turn to you if something scary happens.
While the online world can be scary, there is a way to protect your kids through open communication and attention.
What do you think about social media apps? How do you protect your kids from online predators? Share your thoughts with us. We would love to hear from you.