Parents are being warned to monitor their child’s online activity even more vigilantly after 24 New Jersey men were arrested for trying to attract minors for sex using popular video games like Fortnite and Minecraft. Both games do include some kind of direct message feature that allowed each of the men to communicate with their potential victims.
Almost all of the men were apprehended and charged with second-degree child luring. Only one man, a registered sex offender, has been released on bail.
There is a subtle difference between the danger posed by an online game like Fortnite in particular versus regular texting apps. By using the game, predators are able to develop a rapport with victims based on a very common and highly popular interest. Given that around 125 million people actually play Fortnite, it has the potential to become a new breeding ground for predatory behavior.
Moreover, the massive sting operation that resulted in 24 arrests made it abundantly clear that there isn’t one kind of predator. One of the men arrested even works as a police sergeant in New Jersey and used the messaging app Kik to approach potential victims. Apps like Wishbone, Discord, and Tumblr are also among those used by the men implicated in the sting.
In the wake of the arrests, many parents have spoken out about the ways that they try and keep their kids safe online. One dad told CBS that he keeps the computer in the family room so that whatever the child does is in full view of everyone else.
“You put them behind a room and you don’t know what they can get into,” he explained.
Another mom told CBS that parents need to trust their kids, but should also get really serious about verifying that trust.
“She knows not to use her real name. She knows not to put her picture online,” one mother said of her daughter’s online safety. “I know what she is doing because I pick it up and look.”