Online Gaming by Margo Kelly
The inspiration for my debut novel, Who R U Really?, came when my daughter was nearly abducted by an online predator, but the underlying circumstances began earlier than that.
As a mom of three children, I can easily recall the days when I sat my toddlers in front of a 30 minute television show on PBS so I could steal a quick nap on the couch. Being a parent is exhausting. The kids have grown over the years, and the entertainment options have changed—not just for our family but also for our society.
Today, kids will sit in front of a computer screen instead of a television.
There are countless—seemingly innocent—online games that our kids play. But as parents, do we really know what our children are doing within the framework of those games? Are they playing against the computer or against other people? And if they’re playing with people, is there some sort of chat box associated with the game? It doesn’t matter if it’s a role-playing game, a racing game, a building game, or a chess game … if there is a chat box, there is a danger.
My daughter participated in an innocent online role-playing game where a chat box was necessary to facilitate the game. Because of that chat box, she met a guy. He seemed nice. He seemed to need a friend. He seemed safe. But in fact, he was none of these things.
Over a year’s time, while I thought she was playing a simple game, this guy manipulated her and had her convinced they were in love. Not only had they exchanged cell phone numbers, but they had also arranged a time and place to meet … after school and before sports practice. That meant he would have had her for hours before I ever even went to pick her up from practice. Luckily, I discovered texts on her phone before anything came to fruition. But one of the scariest things was that she chose to believe in a complete stranger over me. He’d swayed her so well. He was an expert at what he did.
The plot of Who R U Really? offers up several fictional characters for readers to suspect as the online predator, and I won’t give away the details of that story here. But I will tell you that in real life, the predator had convinced my daughter (who was eleven going on twelve at the time) that he was a nineteen-year-old boy who needed a friend. In fact he was about three decades older. And because he lived in another state and because I stopped the process before he harmed her, there was nothing the police could do about it. Of course they investigated, but he had not yet broken any laws when it came to my daughter. Even though the police knew exactly who he was and where he lived, they could only watch him. I hope they still are, because as far as I know, he is still online playing games with young kids and trying to lure them away from their parents. He’s even fished around and tried to reconnect with my daughter over the years.
A local police detective said to my daughter, “It is your job to tell others—your real everyday friends that you go to school with—tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” My daughter agreed. Who R U Really? was born with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators. But reading a book alone won’t protect our kids from the dangers lurking on the Internet.
Here are a few tips to help our kids stay safer (because staying completely SAFE is impossible) online:
- Be friends with them on social media and insist that they only accept friend requests from people they know in everyday life.
- Occasionally play their online games with them, so that you can understand what it is they are interested in online.
- Build trust with them, so that they will be more comfortable talking with you about what concerns them.
- Teach them safe online practices like keeping their actual birthdate, phone number, email, street address, even city private. No one online needs to have that personal information about them.
- Most importantly, remember that there is strength in numbers. Teach them to always use the buddy system and to never meet an online acquaintance alone. Not ever. Just don’t even play with the idea.
Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when my daughter was nearly abducted. There was a chat box in the online game she played, and that’s where the danger stemmed from.
Learn more and order your copy of Who R U Really here.
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margo welcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs. Find her on Facebook or on Twitter @MargoWKelly.
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