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Do You Know Who’s Playing Video Games with Your Child?

DALLAS — In the Emershaw household in Dallas, 12-year-old Benjamin can slay dragons and take down drug dealers.

And because his video game console hooks up to the Internet, he can play with or against his friends across town and chat about it.

“He gets a kick out of, ‘I have a friend in Canada, I have a friend in Florida, I have a friend in Texas.'”

In Shavertown, 12-year-old Jack Costello likes to take on all challengers.

“He’s been invited by people who say they’re 12-year-old kids, and for all I know, they are,” said his mother Bridget. “But then again, for all I know, they are crazy Internet predators.”

Bridget Costello and Becky Emershaw believe their sons know what to do if they are contacted by a stalker.

“Trust your gut and come to mom and dad,” added Bridget Costello.

But not all kids tell mom and dad, and not all parents know about this online problem.

It hit home last year, when a 33-year-old man from Wyoming County used an interactive video game to contact a nine-year-old girl in upstate New York.

Federal prosecutors said Alfred Kenvyn of Nicholson then convinced the girl to send him semi-clothed pictures of her.

Kenvyn contacted the girl again, but this time her father was home.  So, when Kenvyn sent a photo of himself through the video game, the girl’s father took a picture.

The father sent the picture to local police, who sent it to the FBI, who contacted federal prosecutors in Scranton.

“He had done this twice before, before getting caught to this same girl,” said Assistant US Attorney Fran Sempa.

Kenvyn pleaded guilty last summer, and he’s now serving a 13-year sentence in a federal prison.

Sempa said that case should open the eyes of every parent whose kids play interactive games.

“If you’re a predator and you want to target young children, where’s the best place to go?” asked Sempa. “A gaming system.”

Becky Costello fights back by educating her son, Jack, especially when Jack senses someone who doesn’t seem quite right asks to join in the game.

“I just hang up on them because I don’t want to be talking to 30-year-old men,” said Jack.

Becky Emershaw says she keeps Benjamin’s gaming system in the living room for a reason.

“He plays here, where I can see him,” said Becky.

The chairwoman of a child advocacy group warns that, even more than Facebook or email, online video games provide a way for a stalker to develop a relationship with a child and gain their trust.

And she believes there are plenty of parents who don’t know about this video game danger.

18 comments

  • nepawoods

    Some guy does something with an underage girl via the internet, goes to prison, and nobody complains. A Scranton priest molests an underage girl in his car after giving her alcohol, and people come to his defense. Go figure.

  • pittstonjoma

    I am 29 and an online gamer. Most people online are fairly honest and trustworthy. If you are a child, you are better off not mentioning it to strangers. Parents should also check in on their children when they play online.

    • Steve

      You can often guess someones age by the way the sound so, they don’t really need to say theyre a child for someone to know it. It’s really on parents to know what their kids are doing and who. No matter if the internet is involved or not. I game and there are a lot of kids playing online, wouldn’t believe their language either, and the games are rated 17 and older. A 6 year old can’t buy it. Parents are at fault.

  • Robert

    This problem didn’t exist in the 1980’s, when all we had were game systems like Atari and Nintendo (original 8-bit released fall 1985 in US) and they had zero capability of online play. Back then all we had to worry about was prank phone calls. Guess creepy guys did their dirty work in person then, hanging out near schools and playgrounds. Now it’s easier to hide behind a fake identity on the Internet but what the perv’s don’t realize is that their location and IP address can be traced. I’m 40 now, if I tried to do anything sexual with a 17 year old, I’d be looking at hard time. The reason why rapists kill their victims is because they don’t want the victim to tell parents and police. Nobody wants to spend years in prison.

  • Perryfarrel

    It’s ok then to post all this kids info here online? Name, address etc…Good job wnep. What makes you better?

  • Niko Bellic

    that 12 year old child was playing a game not intended for persons under the age of 18, ID is required at purchase

    • StatingObvious

      Thank You!!! I am a Gamer and usually Adults are only on the “Adult” games, if they are playing age appropriate material they would most likely only run into peers in the same age group. Parents need to watch what they let their children play to begin with there aren’t ratings on the game for nothing…..

    • BigCat

      Great point. I’d also like to say that this headline falls into the lie that video games are a children’s hobby – the average age of gamers is over 30 and has been for more than a decade.

  • CaptainMerica234

    Now we’re targeting gaming systems? I believe wnep resembles Hollywood in the sense that they’re running out of story ideas and are targeting anything they think might stick… Here’s an idea… If you worry your child may talk to predators on their game… Don’t buy them a game.. Problem solved

    • Robert

      Or don’t let them connect to the Internet with their system or buy them a used older system that has no Internet capability. Or have the Internet capable system in the living room or other area where the parent can watch. Or install a monitoring camera like a baby camera in your child’s bedroom.

  • Jonathan McLaren

    Ummm, yeah… It’s the internet… Anywhere there is internet, there is the possibility for perverts, criminals, etc… Doesn’t matter what kind of internet experience it is, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, video games, Yahoo Messenger, or anything else… Always be careful, and never give anyone your personal information…

    • Robert

      Maybe girls shouldn’t doll themselves up so much to make older men feel attracted toward them and want to commit sexual acts against them. Or if girls acted more tough or said to the perv’s “My father will take care of you” there would be less crime.

      • DanTheHobbit

        No. Just no. That “She was asking for it” line of thought is reprehensible to begin with, and applying it to underage girls is… No. Partial credit goes for suggesting the girls to get their parents involved.

      • Steve

        @ Robert. Love your, “Its your fault for asking for it” logic. People like you are girls & sometimes boys don’t report assaults. They don’t want Neanderthal like people to blame them for some nut attacking them.

      • Scott

        the Way Your Talking, Its Sounds Like Your Defending Perverts And Pedophiles… Maybe This Post Hit A Nerve? Maybe You Yourself Are A Predator..? If It Quacks Like A Duck, Chances Are Its A Duck..

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