COLUMBUS, Ga. - Technology is constantly evolving and giving online predators easier access to children and their information if parents aren’t keeping a close eye on what they are doing.
“Bad words, “You’re trash, why do you even play this game?” You’re adopted.”
These are the type of comments 10-year-old Garteth Craig is exposed to every time he logs onto play his favorite video game, Fortnight, which connects players to thousands of other people across the world.
In the digital age we live in, many children are exposed to online predators every day. Some of these predators say mean things and others have a more cynical objective and prey on the young, according to Muscogee County School Resource Officer Travis Spencer.
“Each individual predator has their own need of what they are looking for,” Spencer said. “Some are more controlling, some are mean, and some have sexual deviancies. But most of them all want information.”
Spencer said with kids being cooped up in quarantine and not having many choices of recreational outlets due to the pandemic, many parents end up allowing their children to have free range of internet access, social media, or games, which if left unsupervised, could land your child into a world of trouble.
“Lets use TikTok for example. Their background for example says a lot about where they are. Like my background right now shows where I work. So, if you were going to put up a very popular video with a current song, your backdrop will tell people not only who you are, but where you live. You might have a poster on the wall, certificate, or something with a school name. Predators will take that information to find out where you live. So, it’s incredibly dangerous,” Spencer said.
Jennifer Craig, a Phenix City mother of three, said there are ways to ensure your child’s safety while allowing them access to the online world.
“I think everything starts in the home," Craig said. “How proactive parents are, how they communicate with their children, and trying to have an honest relationship so that the children don’t withhold information from you. I’m accountable at the end of the day – what happens, what doesn’t happen, and what they do and don’t do.”
Local law enforcement said if you’re a victim of either cyberbullying or think you have been exposed to an online predator, report it to someone immediately. The action you take against that harasser may be your saving grace. Plus, you’re protecting other kids from that same abuse.