When a parent on the Uproxx staff came across an unsettling local story about a pedophile luring a 12-year-old boy into sending nude photos through Minecraft, he instantly sent a flurry of panicked messages to Uproxx‘s resident gaming expert to get educated on this challenging new aspect of parenting. We’ve republished an edited version of that conversation below as a resource for any parent looking for similar answers.
Ryan Perry: Dan, I just came across this disturbing story about a local kid. What the f***?
Dan Seitz: While it’s rare, pedophiles and other assorted creeps will use Minecraft and other games to try and contact kids. It’s a problem you find across the whole industry, unfortunately, in part because game companies are terrible about communicating any aspect of their game to anybody who hasn’t handled controllers since birth.
I had no idea Minecraft allowed communication like this. My six-year-old daughter plays all the time. I thought she was just running around looking at block-y trees and stuff.
You’re probably not alone. Most games at this point either are automatically wired to the internet or can connect to the internet and usually have some sort of chat support. A lot of games are designed by adults for adults, and developers tend not to realize that people will just hand kids any video game, regardless of what’s on the cover. With a game like Minecraft, which is fairly kid-friendly and exploded out of nowhere, it’s a huge problem.
How can I make sure my kid isn’t susceptible to stuff like this?
It starts with your kids. All the basic rules for being out in public apply to being online, really. Don’t talk to people you don’t know; if somebody wants you to go somewhere (i.e. click on a website), you shouldn’t do it without a parent or other trusted adult present; kids should understand that not everybody on the internet is a nice person or is who they say they are. Don’t make them paranoid, but stress safety.
Fortunately, unlike the public, you can go into your kids’ games and usually lock off or shut down certain functions. With any game your kid plays, take a close look at the chat and “friends” system. You might have to Google a bit for the settings, but when you find them, you can usually tweak who your kids are talking to. You can also play with them, if you have the time.