A disturbing warning out of the U.K. is traveling around the globe after at least two mothers reported that pedophiles made sex-related comments to their children while they were playing Fortnite. The open-world shooter game features a chat system that enables any player to speak to any other player during gameplay. What’s worse is that the chat system can’t even be turned off, so parents are advised to monitor their children and listen in every time they play the game.
Fortnite plays host to pedophiles
Earlier this month, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency warned that pedophiles are using the open chat system on Fortnite to make lewd comments to children and advised parents to monitor their children while they play the game. The Daily Mail also reports that children as young as 11 talk openly about Fortnite being “full of pedos.”
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According to the Daily Mirror, a London mother was sitting next to her 10-year-old son while he played Fortnite when they began to hear a man giggling and calling her son “Danny,” which is the name on the account he was using. She said the man urged him to put his headset on, and then seconds later, asked the boy if he knew what sex is. She immediately muted the console and advised other parents to turn the audio off entirely to protect their children from pedophiles.
Last month, a mother from Liverpool reported a similar situation when she overhead a man ask her 12-year-old son to send him nude photos while he played Fortnite on their PC. He offered £50 to the boy in exchange for sex acts and told him to “die slowly.” As soon as she heard the comments, the boy’s mother ran into the room and told him to tell the man that he was speaking to a 12-year-old and whether he thinks it’s disgusting to make such comments to a child. However, the man said he didn’t care at all. She then stopped the game and called the police.
Here’s what parents need to know about Fortnite
The U.K. Safer Internet Centre issued a similar warning about Fortnite last month and posted a blog to explain the game and its risks to parents. The game pits 100 players from around the globe against each other and enables them to chat openly with each other. All players must create an account using an email address, but the game does not ask how old they are when they register.
Although the Pan European Game Information rates Fortnite as not being suitable for children under the age of 12, the Safer Internet Centre warned that this rating takes into account only the game’s content and does not factor in the chat system. Children may be exposed to sexual language from pedophiles or offensive language through the chat system, both through text and audio.
Parents who discover pedophiles making inappropriate comments to their children are advised to report the username of the offending player via either the in-game feedback system in the main menu or by emailing the developer, Epic Games.
How to spot child grooming and protect your kids
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.K. published a guide to child grooming to help parents identify it and keep their children safe. The charity organization explains that grooming involves an adult trying to connect emotionally with children with the intent of sexual exploitation, abuse or trafficking. Children often don’t understand what has happened or that it constitutes abuse.
Children who are being groomed are often secretive, especially regarding their online activities. They tend to have boyfriends or girlfriends who are much older than them and meet up with friends at unusual locations. They also often refuse to say where they got new items and frequently have alcohol or drugs. Children who are being abused are often withdrawn, depressed, anxious, aggressive, and displaying other major changes in behavior.