Most parents I know think of an online predator as someone who is targeting kids in a sexual manner. But many social media predators target kids to gain personal information for credit card theft, or to steal personal identities.
My guest post today is from Dr. Keith Kanner, a licensed and certified child, adolescent & adult psychoanalyst and host of SanDiego6′s Your Family Matters. He shares one of his personal experiences to show us how online predators use kids to get personal information.
Xbox Live Predators by Dr. Keith Kanner
I thought I had heard of just about anything, but this one actually redefined the notion of sick people.
Meet “Michael” from Alexandria, Louisiana, better known as “S For Sickness” (fitting, huh), which is his Xbox Live tag. Your Family Matters has previously focused on the dangers of social media predators, evident on sites such as MySpace and Facebook, where I have cautioned parents about the needs for supervision on computer activities for children. Such voiced concerns have involved bullying, sexual overtures, and general inappropriateness, but, in this case, “Michael’s” tactic is to lure children into playing on his team on an Xbox Live game promising to upgrade items on the game for the exchange of personal information such as age, e-mail addresses, and passwords.
The intent here seems to be stealing information to hack into computer systems and potentially steal assets using the vulnerability of a child. As these games are very competitive and can be fun, the idea of getting to higher levels, having better tools, and making friends, can be exciting and hard sometimes for certain children to remember what their parents have taught them about “stranger danger” whether this be live or in the cyber world. In this case, the sound of “Michael’s” voice and words sound like an adult, not a child.
In this case, “S for Sickness” makes, what appears to be a team promise, or seduction, but watch what happens when a kid refuses to give the information that he requests. ” I will blow up your Xbox 360…… hack into your computer……. make your mommy and daddy buy you a new one………you b—-a–”. This goes beyond a predator, this is no less than a Monster. In this particular case, the game was supervised by parents and fortunately for us, “Michael”, left his message on the kid’s Xbox hard drive and the tape along with his tag information and whereabouts are now in the hands of law and fire enforcement , Microsoft, and his voice and tape are in numerous newsrooms around the country.
We here at San Diego 6 will be following up on this case and hope that “S for Sickness” will be arrested and prosecuted to send a clear message to cyber criminals that as a society we will not tolerate threats towards our children.
But, what can parents do to better protect their children from such horrible people, who are now on Live games?
1. Supervise all computer activities. The Internet is state of the art and our children will be exposed to increasing trends that many adults do not understand. But, supervision is something that even the most computer naive parent can do and if something goes sideways, we are there to help. I always suggest keeping computers and game systems in open areas in the house where parents can walk by and check in.
2. Educate yourself about Social Media domains and Live gaming systems. It’s time we all visit a Game Stop and see what kids are up to these days. Not that you will let your child necessarily play on these systems, but at least, you know what they are and all about. If your kids do have them, get ready to learn about Live game systems and how they work. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. By the way, child sites such as Club Penguin have better safeguards than the Live gaming systems which have no live supervision.
3. Educate children about bad people. Most parents do this already but now we are having to extend those talks to include people that our children may not be able to see in person and only know through a headset or text message. The use of words, without speech, can be equally threatening and scary to a child or adolescent. Michael’s victim was very afraid that he had some way to cause his Xbox to either explode or catch on fire as was the threat. So, teach your kids how to identify inappropriate words as well as actions.
4. Report CyberBullies or Internet Predators to the Police. Microsoft explained to me that on most live game systems, one can report both illegal and bully behavior. But, this is not enough. Once a report is made, Microsoft will then follow that person and if they continue to not “play fair”, they may revoke their membership. But, Microsoft is NOT law enforcement and will only release information on a customer with a court order. In addition, if the communication is “live” and not recorded, then even following them will not get to their true intentions. Therefore, take down as much information that you can on the person, save any correspondence, and call both your local Police and the Police in the city that the bully or predator is from.
4. Comfort your kid. Cyberbullies and predators are scary people to kids, especially if they are adults. When you as the parent then takes charge and help them feel safe, the trauma gradually wears and your child will recover from the trauma. But, people like “Michael” , or better know as, “S for Sickness”, forces us as adults and parents to have a “Duty To Call” these sociopaths on their sickness.
Watch his video segment in which he explains his personal experience with an Online Gaming Predator.
Thank you to Dr. Keith Kanner for sharing a personal story to educate families.
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