A few weeks ago, my son and daughter came off a session on their computer both quite upset. They had been playing Roblox, a multiplayer game where players can create an avatar for themselves, create their own virtual worlds, explore these imaginary worlds, interact with and make friends with other players from all over the world.
The few times they’ve played it before, they have come off happy chatting with friends they knew. I was quite surprised for example that they had been catching up with friends from their old school and when they made new friends from another country.
This time though, my daughter was sobbing. I asked her what was wrong, but she was too upset to answer...
This time though, my daughter was sobbing. I asked her what was wrong, but she was too upset to answer coherently. My son explained that a few other players, and one in particular, had been harassing her in the game. They had been following her avatar around, calling her mean names, telling her she looked ugly, and that she was not wanted in the worlds. My son had tried to stand up for her, but it didn’t stop the bullying.
I was quite upset that in the space of half an hour, some players had been able to make my daughter feel that way. But I was even more ashamed though that I didn’t know enough about what my kids were doing on line to protect them. And in honesty, I hadn’t been monitoring their screen usage as closely as a I should have. What were they doing in Minecraft? Was Fortnite or Town of Salem really appropriate for my son?
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Online predators can pretend to be friends and lure kids
Then I had a minor freak out when discovered that there was more to worry about than just online bullies. There have been instances of children being lured into sex rooms or being sexually assaulted in the virtual worlds on Roblox. For example, a six-year-old girl’s avatar was invited by a ‘friend’ into a sex room. Luckily her mother was sitting next to her and immediately took the game away.
Online predators pretending to be nice friends can also lure kids by inviting them to meet up on other platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Skype. I breathed a sigh of relief as I knew my kids didn’t have these social media accounts. But I also know that there will be new games that my kids will want to play, and the pending request for a mobile phone and all the other things that will come with that.
Be proactive in protecting your kids online
The positive thing that came out of the incident was that it knocked the naivety out of me. It encouraged me to be more proactive in being informed about what apps, games and content are suitable for my kids, and the things I can do to protect them.
Don’t sit back. Learn about how you can keep your kids safe online.
Free event - How to keep your kids safe online, Monday 3 June
Inspiro is running a free event on 'Cyber Savvy Communities - How to keep your kids safe online', to help parents, community members and children learn about this important topic. It will be held on Monday 3rd June from 5.45pm – 8.00pm at Belgrave Community Hub: 1616 - 1624 Burwood Hwy Belgrave.
Click here to reserve your seats (only 10 left)