Online predators could mean long-term problems for child victims

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PARKER, Colo. -- A Facebook post from a father in the U.K. has gone viral after he said online predators sent inappropriate messages to his children.

The man claims within a few minutes of signing on, other users playing the game Roblox asked him to “follow them to their [virtual] homes and bedrooms,” “lay on top of them” and “imitate sexual movements” with the avatars.

Roblox is an online game that lets users create and explore virtual worlds. The game also has a chat feature that allows users to interact.

“Roblox is committed to fully complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to ensure the privacy of our users age 12 and under and prevent them from sharing personal info via chat messages or in-game," according to the site.

"Although users age 13 and older can adjust more account settings and have an expanded vocabulary list, Roblox employs a filtering system and moderation team to help keep players safe and restrict sharing personally identifiable information.”

Roblox is listed as a kidSAFE program, which certifies the site as having met online safety standards. It has several parental controls that can block users or content not appropriate for children.

“Roblox uses a state-of-the-art filtering system that actively filters for inappropriate chat everywhere on the site and in-game. This system is monitored and dynamically adjusted to prevent any new subversions as they arise,” the site says.

While kid-friendly settings are a step in the right direction, Aurora-based clinical social worker Larry Curry said they are not fool-proof.

“There are predators out there that will find ways of getting through to your child,” he said.

Curry said if a child is exposed to content like what was described in the Facebook post, they could suffer long-term psychological and emotional stress.

“When we look at things like pornography, when we look at things like sexual abuse, early sexual encounters for a child, it would be the same thing as if they had an assault take place upon them,” Curry said. “They’re traumatized. So they’re stuck at that stage, or they get the wrong impression that it’s totally okay.”

He suggests utilizing the parental blockers in combination with regular monitoring of games and other social media accounts.

“Don’t just depend on the safeguards alone. From time to time, look at their computer. Look at who they’re talking to. Look at how much time they’re spending on their computer,” Curry said.

That way your child can still enjoy the game the way it was meant to be played.

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