PARENTS have been left horrified after discovering that recent government attempts to crackdown on the sexual exploitation of children are failing across the board, with new incidents of children being targeted through seemingly innocent children’s computer and console games being reported almost on a DAILY basis.
One such game, online multiplayer game Roblox, which has 90 million users worldwide, is marketed at children – but there are fears it also being used to groom them. One mother explained yesterday how this happened to her young son.
“They were talking about rape” she said, recalling the moment she checked on some of the chats her son had been groomed to engage in through the game. “They were talking sexual activities that were pornographic,”
Her young son had been playing Roblox online – where users build their own games and create characters with coloured blocks.
For Sarah, it initially seemed like an “innocent game”, just like any other.
She had even turned on parental controls, so her son – not yet a teenager – could not send messages.
But, over time, she noticed a change in his behaviour, most of all the fact that he would no longer want to join in with the family activities he usually enjoyed.
Concerned, she decided to check the game – and discovered he had been communicating with others on a third-party app.
It was at that point that she realised her son had been groomed into sending sexually explicit images of himself.
“We came across some pictures,” she told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “It was horrifying. I was physically sick.”
Roblox told the programme it was unable to comment on individual cases but was committed to protecting the online safety of children. However, with this recent case – one of many – brought to light, angry parents are accusing game companies of having no control over the situation whatsoever.
Roblox said its in-game chat had “very stringent filters” and any photo exchange would have been done on a third-party app. Children’s games, and in-game communication functions have also come under scrutiny after it was revealed that Islamic terrorists are also using them to communicate with each other without detection.
The issue of online safety and in particular, security in children’s games and who has access to them, is posing a serious problem for governments and tech firms – with neither admitting that they are currently helpless in ensuring that children are provided with all the relevant protection necessary to prevent further incidents of grooming from occurring.
Parents are advised to regularly check their children’s games and messages. But some parents have rightly stated that this simply isn’t always possible, and that those who are responsible for regulation and producing the games should get a grip before the situation gets considerably worse.