By Assemblyman Will Barclay
More than 3,500 accounts of New York registered sex offenders were recently banned from online video game venues as part of “Operation: Game Over,” in participation with Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Sony. This is good news for parents and children.
The internet is a wonderful tool.
Our lives have been transformed by the vast technology offered thanks to the internet. Unfortunately, predators are savvy and can blend into forums, internet ads, and games where they can make friends or prey on innocent and accepting folks and children. Internet gaming is a popular and growing pastime for many, especially for pre-teens and teenagers.
According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of teens (12-17) play computer, web, portable, or console games and 27% of teens (12-17) play games online with people they don’t know.
Almost all games come with the option to play online. Playing online is a great feature that makes video-gaming fun and more interactive. Unfortunately, pedophiles and other exploiters easily misrepresent who they are and can establish direct one-to-one contact with children.
Last week, our laws worked to help stop registered sex offenders from online gaming. The attorney general’s office banned registered sex offenders from these forums. They cannot play such games online.
Convicted sex offenders must register all of their email accounts and online IDs with the Department of Criminal Justice.
That information is then made available to certain websites so they can purge potential predators from their online networks. After the Office of Attorney General approached gaming companies to remove registered sex offenders on their networks, the companies agreed, resulting in 3,500 registered sex offenders removed from the gaming systems in New York. “Operation: Game Over” is the first time the law has been applied to online video game systems.
According to the Attorney General’s office press release, ‘Operation: Game Over’ coincides with recent incidents of sexual predators using voice and text chat functions in online gaming services to lure underage victims across the country.
Earlier this month, Richard Kretovic, a 19-year-old man from Monroe County, pled guilty to sexual abuse charges after meeting a 12-year-old boy on the popular online video game system Xbox LIVE.
The man gained the boy’s trust over a period of three months, and then invited the boy over to his house where the abuse occurred, according to police.
While our laws are designed to protect children, they are not enough.
Parents should be aware of sexual predators themselves and:
Choose games appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level;
Use your game console’s parental controls (control which games can be played; for how long; and whether they can play online);
Keep computer or game console in a public area of the home; and
Talk to your kids about how to protect identifying information, and to avoid and report conversations that make them uncomfortable.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System’s most recent report, there were an estimated 1,560 child deaths from abuse and neglect in the United States in fiscal year 2010. There were 436,321 abuse and neglect complaints substantiated by child protective agencies and 24,976 found to be indicated. The stories and statistics are alarming and horrifying.
Local organizations seek to raise awareness and educate the public through events throughout the year.
Pinwheels are a symbol of child abuse awareness and prevention, and this month, the pinwheels are being displayed throughout Onondaga County, in cooperation with McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Site, Onondaga County’s child advocacy center.
To reach this organization, call 315-701-2985 or visit their website at http://www.mcmahonryan.org
In Oswego County, the Child Advocacy Center continues to be a voice for children of sexual, physical and verbal abuse.
They sponsor the Blue Ribbon Ride to raise money and awareness for their cause. For more information, visit http://oswegocac.org/ or call (315) 592-4453.
For ways to help stop abuse and to help in small ways in your community, visit http://www.preventchildabuse.org/ and click on What you Can Do. To report abuse, call the New York State Child Abuse hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185. You may also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.