Sex Offenders Banned from Online Games; Laws Work to Protect Children, Families
April 16, 2012
More than 3,500 accounts of New York registered sex offenders were recently banned from online video game venues as part of “Operation: Game Over,” in participation with Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Sony. This is good news for parents and children. The internet is a wonderful tool. Our lives have been transformed by the vast technology offered thanks to the internet. Unfortunately, predators are savvy and can blend into forums, internet ads, and games where they can make friends or prey on innocent and accepting folks and children. Internet gaming is a popular and growing pastime for many, especially for pre-teens and teenagers. According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of teens (12-17) play computer, web, portable, or console games and 27% of teens (12-17) play games online with people they don’t know. Almost all games come with the option to play online. Playing online is a great feature that makes video-gaming fun and more interactive. Unfortunately, pedophiles and other exploiters easily misrepresent who they are and can establish direct one-to-one contact with children. Last week, our laws worked to help stop registered sex offenders from online gaming. The attorney general’s office banned registered sex offenders from these forums. They cannot play such games online. Convicted sex offenders must register all of their email accounts and online IDs with the Department of Criminal Justice. That information is then made available to certain websites so they can purge potential predators from their online networks. After the Office of Attorney General approached gaming companies to remove registered sex offenders on their networks, the companies agreed, resulting in 3,500 registered sex offenders removed from the gaming systems in New York. “Operation: Game Over” is the first time the law has been applied to online video game systems. According to the Attorney General's office press release, “Operation: Game Over” coincides with recent incidents of sexual predators using voice and text chat functions in online gaming services to lure underage victims across the country. Earlier this month, Richard Kretovic, a 19-year-old man from Monroe County, pled guilty to sexual abuse charges after meeting a 12-year-old boy on the popular online video game system Xbox LIVE. The man gained the boy’s trust over a period of three months, and then invited the boy over to his house where the abuse occurred, according to police. While our laws are designed to protect children, they are not enough. Parents should be aware of sexual predators themselves and:
- Choose games appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level;
- Use your game console’s parental controls (control which games can be played; for how long; and whether they can play online);
- Keep computer or game console in a public area of the home; and
- Talk to your kids about how to protect identifying information, and to avoid and report conversations that make them uncomfortable.