April 22, 2014 3:20 pm

Expert says it’s up to parents to help kids stay safe when gaming online

MONCTON – With the rise in popularity of online gaming, parents are increasingly being urged to help their kids play it safe.

Three years ago, Joe Farquhar found out how dangerous it could be, when his son Alex was playing an online game alone in his room.

“We could hear him in there chatting. and he was giving out his name,” he said.

The alarm bells immediately went off and Farquhar pulled Alex, who’s now 15, away from his game for a very important chat.

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“He didn’t even know this person and we said ‘Why are you giving them your name? You can’t be doing that,’” he said. “We asked more information — what is he giving out and stuff — and it turned out he was giving his name and information with everyone he was chatting with.”

Children and teens should never share personal information about themselves or their family with other players because the person they think is their online gaming friend may be someone more dangerous, says social worker Michelle MacPherson, who works for the Anglophone East School District.

“These people that they are talking to, perhaps it is a pedophile or maybe not,” she said. “But if it is, they have probably talked to this person for months and months.”

She says online gaming is becoming a target for child predators to lure unassuming kids.

“The predator will put together a relationship with this child for months and months before they start asking [the child] questions,” MacPherson said. The answers to such questions could lead the stranger directly to the child’s home or school.

“You need to sit with you child on a regular basis and see what they are doing online,” she said.

She says preventing a child from playing online altogether isn’t realistic, so parents should set strict guidelines and monitor their kids’ online activity regularly.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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