Predators have unprecedented access to kids through online video games, FBI says

Predators have unprecedented access to kids through online video games, FBI says
Online video game (WSB-TV/WSB-TV)

ATLANTA — Your kids may try to sneak in a quick video game before heading to school in the morning, but you need to know predators are targeting children and it has happened here in north Georgia.

Predators now have unprecedented access to kids through video games.

“This is nothing like the generation I grew up in,” said FBI Special Agent Keith Joyce.

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Joyce said predators use multi-player games like Fortnite to find their prey.

“The new playground of today is online gaming,” Joyce said.

Here's how it works: A child accepts the invite to play, the conversations start out light, then a predator will make their move asking for explicit photos.

"They'll attempt to get the victim to send one image, once that once image that is compromising is sent all bets are off,” Joyce said.

It's a trap mom Jessica Otwell wants to shield from her 15-year-old.

“There are parents out here that honestly don't know,” Otwell said. “They take online fantasy and turn it into real life without grasping who is actually on the other side of the microphone."

The back and forth often moves to social media and the threats get more intense.

“They will call over Facebook Messenger and leave voicemails on Facebook Messenger talking about how if the victim doesn't send more images within 10 minutes then they're going to post it all over their Facebook page, they are going to send to all their friends and family,” Joyce said.

And parents of the most well-adjusted children may never hear about it.

“They will go through years and years of hell just to not shame their parents or not get in trouble,” Joyce said.

Police arrested a man from Pennsylvania who was accused of trying to meet up with a 13-year-old in Hall County. Police said he targeted the teen playing Fortnite.

Experts say parents should teach their kids to tell them if a conversation during a video games gets personal, even if someone simply asks what state they live in.

They should also know how to block people. The most important part: Make sure kids know they can come to you.