Claim: Online gaming puts children at risk

Posted by Sylvie Barak

A recent TV report from Denver, Colorado station KDVR has gamers on the virtual rampage, as its hysterical sensationalism blocks out all common sense in a report which appears to deliver the message that gaming will lead to child molestation and death.

Heavily emphasizing the "killer graphics," the KDVR reporter starts off ominously noting that the issues are all about "hi-tech games children are dying to play." 



Cringe.

But it gets worse. The reporter goes on to say that children playing console games are easy fodder for perverts and child molesters, exclaiming that kids are "matched up with cyber space strangers, who are often adults posing as kids – turning Xbox into sexbox." 



Snort. We wonder how long it took for them to come up with that one.

On a verbal roll, the reporter goes on to say that it's not just Microsoft's console that is putting the wee kiddies in harm's way, either. Oh no. The Nintendo Wii and Sony's Playstation3 are also singled out as "a predator's playground."

Apparently, girl gamer Erica found this out the hard way when accosted by an online player going by the name of "Romantic Devil." 



However, as he began to ask Erica whether she had a boyfriend, or a webcam, the report says the self-proclaimed Romantic Devil became more of a "disgusting pervert," apparently asking her if she wanted to see his genitalia.

We are never told whether Erica took him up on his offer or how the situation was dealt with.

"Often cyber predators will take their cyber world relationships into the real world," observes KDTV, although how the station manages to lump the blame for this onto console gamers, whilst Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, MSN and various other means of online communication seem to escape KDTV's wrath, is beyond us.

"I am seeing a rash of males having to show their genitalia to kids online," an 'investigator' by the name of Mike Harris tells KDVR.

Unfortunately, the report does little to inform parents of what can be done to prevent this rash from spreading. The only semi useful piece of advice given by the reporter is that children shouldn't share their real details with others, and that parents should keep a closer watch on their little first-person shooters.

Kyle Bennett editor of gaming and hardware review site Hard[OCP] told TG Daily that whilst it's obvious any system can be abused, there needed to be some proportion to the hysteria.

"We don't outlaw ice cream trucks because of a few bad apples," he notes.

"The one thing positive that I brought from the video is that the mom is being an active parent and taking responsibility for the actions of her child. She is monitoring her kids usage of the system. You think this would be a no brainer for all parents, but that does not seem to be the norm. Blame someone else for what you kid is exposed to? Jeez. Parents need to be parents," he said.

Cliff Forster, from tech blog Icrontic concurs. "My step son has grown up with xbox Live, at least for his high school years, my daughter at five would not be permitted to chat on it," he says.

"As with anything, I think the most you can expect from a media company is a fair education for the parent. The ESRB does a fantastic job, but I do think educating parents on the potential dangers of online interaction is important."

"Sure, it seems like common sense, but we have to keep in mind all this technology is fairly new, especially to non-gamers so anything the industry can do to aid parent education without restricting the developers is what I am for."

Sensible words indeed. Much more sensible than KDVR's conclusion that "behind the make believe death and destruction lies a very real danger, one that doesn't go away when the game ends."

Puh-lease!