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FBI warns predators are targeting children playing video games

The FBI warns predators are trying to take advantage of children playing video games.
The FBI warns predators are trying to take advantage of children playing video games.(WOIO)
Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The FBI is warning predators are targeting children.

Kids and teens spend hours over the summer playing video games, and they still have a few weeks left until back-to-school.

Video games can be a lot of fun, but 19 Investigates found sexual predators can be lurking anonymously behind the keyboard.

FBI New York released a PSA called “It’s Not a Game” urging parents to watch out for their children online.

“As soon as that instant message pops up on your child’s browser or on their smart phone, there could be a sexual predator on the other end. It takes only a few days—sometimes just hours—to groom your child into sending compromising photos to the person on the other end of that chat. Then the threats begin,” the FBI agent said in the video.

You can watch the PSA in full here.

We spoke with a local parent, Mallory Diebel, and her 11-year-old son Slade, who loves to play video games.

“I like that it’s a getaway from real life, where you can basically do whatever you want,” he said. Roblox and Minecraft keep him busy for hours.

His parents try to stay involved in what he’s playing.

“It’s a whole new world from when me and my husband were young and playing Sega and Nintendo,” she said. There has been one big change since then.

Users can message each other now, and that’s where the FBI warns threats can come in.

500,000 predators are active online every day, according to the FBI.

Kids ages 12 to 15 are most at risk.

Diebel wants to give Slade his independence when he’s playing.

But she continues to keep tabs on what he’s playing and who he’s talking to.

“We do check in with him every once and awhile to make sure he’s not giving anything private out about yourself, where we live, your name, if we’re home, not home, different things like that,” she said. She’s noticed many of the video games put in more parental controls and restrictions on chats.

But she still keeps an eye on public servers.

“When you’re talking about strangers and a person you see in front of you, it’s easy to say, they’re kind of giving me a weird feeling. Same thing that happens with online,” she said. So what can you do, besides set parental controls?

Experts say know your child’s ID and password and tell him or her you will randomly check them.

You can keep your child’s computer in an open area of your home.

But the best thing you can do is talk about the dangers together.

That’s something Diebel is already doing with her son.

“It’s just having those little, hard conversations that they may not want to have, but it’s still important to keep that communication open,” she said. We checked with the Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children task force to see how many cyber tips they’re getting so far this year.

The task force says it has gotten 6,393 cyber tips statewide through July 25.

They’re getting more cyber tips than last year at this time.

10,321 cyber tips came into the task force in 2020, setting a record.

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