(The Center Square) – Roughly a half-million predators comb through the internet in search of children to victimize, according to a survey conducted by Geonode, a geospatial data platform.
Predators targeted one in five children ages 12-15 online, according to Geonode. These potential abusers look for children in popular online multiplayer games such as Clash of Clans, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft.
Geonode suggests that predators, being well-acquainted with maneuvering through digital spaces, shroud themselves within countless online players. These predators interact with children on these video game platforms, gaining their trust through becoming teammates or sparking admiration through forming fierce rivalries.
“We should take a moment to understand what is happening here. You have individuals who are well-versed in the digital world, taking advantage of our kids’ innocence,” said Geonode expert Josh Gordon. “The stakes are high, and the consequences potentially devastating if not addressed unequivocally and soon.”
Geonode suggests parents take proactive steps to protect their children from predators through paying attention to the games they play, placing restrictions on screen time, limiting chat functions, and reporting suspicious behavior to game moderators.
Internet Crimes Against Children, a task force dedicated to protecting youth from digital dangers, also shined a light on the growing issue of predators recruiting children through video games. Predators often pressure children to send nude photos in exchange for video game tokens, the organization says. The alleged perpetrators sometimes went as far as sending children cell phones with paid service plans, per the task force. Children who identify as members of the LGBTQ community are most at-risk from predators, largely due to feelings of shame and fear of telling their parents.
Gordon encourages authority figures to be actively involved in preventing children from becoming predators’ next victims.
“Vigilance is of paramount importance,” advises Gordon. “It requires a team effort – as parents, guardians, educators, and software developers, resisting complacency is essential. We are all responsible for safeguarding the future of our children and, by extension, our world.”
Video games are not the only avenue in which predators are luring potential new victims. The geospatial data specialists also believe that predators are enticing children through faux giveaways of the popular sports drink “Prime” – a beverage endorsed by social media personalities Logan Paul and KSI. After combing through more than 50 online forums frequented by children, Geonode found that predators attempted to bait children into physical meetups for the drink. Moreover, Google searches regarding free meetups for Prime jumped an alarming 789% from the month of December, Geonode says.