Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Smart Safety - Kids and Online Predators

 Stats provided by child safety organization Kidas revealed that 8-year-olds are the most vulnerable age group to fall prey to online predators, second only to 13-year-olds. 


In compiling data from Q4 of 2023, research showed that over 80% of 8-year-olds are regularly online and active on social media or multiplayer games. Shockingly, 1 in 3 8-year-olds will come into contact with an online harasser, predator or financial scammer. 


Ron Kerbs, CEO of Kidas, is sounding the alarm for parents, who may not understand how soon their children may encounter stranger danger online, including platforms like Discord, Roblox and Fortnite.

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

1. Why is it becoming more prevalent for even younger kids to be exposed to online predators?

The increasing frequency in which younger kids are encountering online predators can be attributed to the ubiquity of online activities becoming an everyday pastime for children. Data from Kidas’ internal tracking shows that in Q4 2023 over 80% of 8-year-olds surveyed by Kidas are active on social media or playing multiplayer games. Shockingly, of that population, we are finding that 1 in 3 8-year-olds will be approached by online harassers, predators or financial scammers. The popularity of online interactions, coupled with the anonymity of gaming, leaves children vulnerable to negative interactions and potential exploitation.

2. What are some ways that online predators can take advantage of kids' curiosity?

Online predators are able to exploit kids' curiosity through the anonymity of online gaming, social media, Twitch, Discord, etc., and a lack of safety enforcement across most platforms. These unfortunate conditions allow bad actors to freely prey on and harass young players with virtually no accountability. Predators take advantage of a developing child’s natural inquisitiveness and utilize voice chats and text communication channels within games to launch into conversations focused on sexual content, harassment, soliciting private information and promoting hate speech. 

3. Why can this occur even in platforms that have safeguards in place?

While platforms have put in place protective measures, the potential dangers persist due to the anonymity associated with online gaming, social media, Twitch, Discord and similar platforms.The inherent nature of gaming anonymity allows cybercriminals and bullies to slip through platform safeguards and target vulnerable players without being easily identified or held accountable. Additionally, parents should stay vigilant, as cybercriminals can employ voice modulators to conceal their identity, even if parents have already activated appropriate parenting and NSFW filters on their child’s system.

4. How can parents protect their kids and give them the tools to spot potentially risky encounters?

Parents can empower themselves with tools like Kidas, which offers the most advanced solution for protecting kids from serious online threats, including cyberbullying, online predators, sexual content and hate speech during online gaming. Kidas' AI-powered ProtectMe software allows parents to stealthily monitor their child's text and voice communications, receive alerts on potential threats and review personalized weekly reports summarizing their child's gaming activity. This proactive approach enables parents to communicate and resolve dangerous situations, providing an extra layer of protection for their children in the digital space.

Furthermore, fostering prevention involves maintaining an open line of communication between parents and children regarding their gaming activities. Parents play a crucial role in nurturing responsible gaming behavior, and children should feel comfortable discussing any questionable interactions with their parents during ongoing conversations about their online gaming experiences.

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