Video Games & Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators

A piece in the NY Times by Nellie Bowles and Michael H. Keller on the reports of video games and online chats becoming “hunting grounds” of youth by sexual predators.

I’d like to note at this point that we’ve seen pieces in the past by the NY Times, and most specifically Nellie Bowles, that push a narrative of a moral panic against tech…especially as it relates to screentime and youth. This narrative is one of the reasons why I started up the Technopanic Podcast with Kristen Turner.

The piece makes the following points:

Sexual predators and other bad actors have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes.

The criminals strike up a conversation and gradually build trust. Often they pose as children, confiding in their victims with false stories of hardship or self-loathing. Their goal, typically, is to dupe children into sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves — which they use as blackmail for more imagery, much of it increasingly graphic and violent.

I think there is a danger of strangers reaching out to youth while online. I also recognize that this danger could happen as they walk down the street. The key is to have dialogue with children as they interact in digital, social spaces.

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About the author

Ian O'Byrne

Dr. W. Ian O’Byrne is a educator, researcher, & speaker. His work centers on teaching, learning, and technology. He investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online & hybrid spaces.

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