Predators targeting children through social media and video games | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

TULSA COUNTY, Okla. — Child predators are changing the way they target children online.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, they aren’t just using social media, they are also working to reach children through video games. OSBI said it received 36 cyber tips generated through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported from X-Box live or Sony for PlayStation.

In 2022, the OSBI made 20 arrests.

Jody Smith has two daughters ages 8 and 13. She said she allows them to play online, but is careful to limit their time and she always tries to be aware of what they are doing.

“The accessibility is concerning and as a parent, we try to stay on top of things, but one of my big fears is that I don’t know what I don’t know, because things are changing so quickly, and my kid probably knows more than I do,” said Smith.

As a parent, she said it’s easy to allow her children more screen time when it’s convenient.

“I am guilty of that at times. They are a life saver when you need them. Long trips, we are on the volleyball tournament road, we’re at gymnastics events and soccer events so I am guilty of that,” said Smith.

Brendan Burke is a special agent for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and said anywhere a child can find a game online, there is the potential that a predator will be using that same app. He said predators typically target a child by starting a conversation in the chat area and then build a relationship with them.

“Child predators know that and if there is a game directed specifically towards a child, they can use that game to exploit that child,” said Burke.

He said another thing on the rise right now is sextortion.

“They exploit these children and get them to send photos and then they tell them if they don’t get a certain amount of money, they are going to share these photos on facebook and all over their other social media accounts,” said Burke.

Burke said its important that parents have the tough conversations with their children if they play online, and always check your children’s devices. You can even set up parental controls if need be.

Smith told 2 News she and her husband set up controls on their girls’ devices and do implement time limits for their screen time. She said there are restrictions as far as what is accessible and what’s not content wise for her children.

If you suspect your child is being targeted by an online predator, you can call the Cyber Tip Line at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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