Online gaming points to child solicitation arrest - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Online gaming points to child solicitation arrest

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A New York man faces charges of computer solicitation of a Jefferson County teenager. Spencer George is accused of sending explicit emails and text messages to a 16 year old girl after meeting her through an online game. The girl's parents found the images on her phone. Her story is one that seems to be repeating as online gaming grows. 

The National Center for Exploited Children reports 97% of teenagers play computer or web-based games.  The problem comes when they give too much information out. The Sheriff's office says this recent case serves as a warning to parents.

"Our children are doing this on a daily basis," Chief Deputy Randy Christian, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said. "The thing about child predators is that they're going to fish where the fish are."

"You have anywhere from 5-10 million people playing online video games everyday," Roger Leake, a gamer in Hoover told us.

And every once and awhile, predators will find easy targets.

"They win their confidence and they go a step further - maybe a phone number, maybe an address, what school do you go to, send me a picture of you," Christian said.

That's when it could start to get dangerous.

"We are at a time and place in our lives where everything runs off of a computer and through the Internet," Christian said. "Law enforcement has to be up to speed on that, they have to specialize in it and that's what we do."

So we decided to take a step inside for a look at an imaginary world.

"It's your getaway!" Leake said. "You're looking for an engrossing story that can kind of take you away from real life a little bit. People are able to meet new people from across the world. They're able in many ways to take on personas that they don't have in real life. 8-12 year olds dominate and have this whole other personality that comes out online."

We talked to a gamer and asked what he would do if someone asked him to send contact information or a picture? He told us he would block them.

Parents say it's the unknown about those other players that's an alarm.  

"It's a little bit scary and apprehensive for a parent because you don't know who they are talking to, there are no security measures and you're really basing it on your child's understanding," Miranda King, a parent buying a game for her son said.

Here is a link to national information and data about online gaming - http://www.netsmartz.org/Gaming

 

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