Meta-verse gives child predators new platform

Meta-verse gives child predators new platform
Written by Publishing Team

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – As the metaverse grows, so does the need for internet safety, especially for our children.

Both the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said the same thing: online safety with your children starts with open communication.

A 13-year-old-girl from Roosevelt was found in the back of a semi-truck being driven by 25-year-old Chris Evans from Florida. Police say Evans communicated with the teen for a month using Oculus, meta technology.

And with this new reality, comes new online safety concerns for parents.

“You’re going into this world, and I think a lot of kids have this misconception kind of that they’re safe,” Michelle Brusch-Upwall Internet Crimes Against Children education specialist Said.

They say this predatory behavior happens more often than you might think.

“This is very real, the stat is 1 in 5 kids are sexually solicited online,” Brusch-Upwall said.

With Oculus games, users can create any avatar they want and meet up with friends and other players.

But experts say any platform that offers anonymity and the ability to privately communicate creates a place where predators can target children. And with virtual reality, it can be even more confusing for children to understand.

“We certainly know that any technology that allows repour building and engagement and connections to be built between children and adults is going to have an opportunity that someone is gonna take advantage of,” Eliza McCoy executive director at the Ntional Center for Missing & Exploited Children said.

Experts encourage parents to talk to their children from the moment they start using this technology to teach their kids about the potential dangers.

“It’s all about having conversation with your kids about how they use technology and what they’re experiencing online,” McCoy said.

And for parents who might not be familiar with social media or gaming platforms, they say that’s a great segue to start talking to your kid about online safety.

“That the perfect opportunity for conversation. Have your child teach you have them tell you about it so instead of being intimidated by that lack of knowledge, leverage it,” McCoy said.

And being open about these topics, whether that is with a parent or trusted adult, is something experts say can help prevent children from falling into predatory traps.

Experts also say to look for if your child is hiding things, or pulling themselves away from family and friends, as predators often use that as a tactic to isolate children. And if you’re unsure whether behavior is predatory or not, you should still report it.


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