I-Team: Online Gaming Dangers
a new breeding ground for child predators could be in your home right now Video by tmj4.comvideo
MILWAUKEE - Sex predators have a new hunting ground. One you may not know even exists.
Kids have all the weapons they need against monsters in video games, but it's real-life monsters their parents should worry about.
Dean Mueller of Shorewood admits he doesn't know much about online gaming, but he does know it takes video games to a whole new level.
I'm aware that once they're online, they can talk to friends, you know friends they can connect with, play with.
Dean's 14-year-old son Andrew says being online is the best part about his Xbox Live.
"Your friends can invite you to a party, or you can invite them, and you can pretty much get just as many people as you can to talk while playing a game," Andrew explains.
Andrew uses a headset to talk 'live' with his friends.
"When I come down here I always ask Andrew, what he's doing, who he's talking with, who he's playing with," Dean says.
It's not just Xbox Live and Nintendo Wii. Some handheld games like the Nintendo DSI are also going online. Once parents put a DSI in a kids' hands--the control is out of their hands.
Department of Justice Special Agent Eric Szatkowski specializes in cases involving the 'dark side' of the Internet.
"That's one of the risks of giving kids Wi-Fi technology--they can go outside the home and engage in communications that mom or dad might not be aware of," Szatkowski explains.
And that could lead to trouble. Earlier this year, a Kenosha man was busted in a child porn ring. Prosecutors say one of the men in the ring contacted more than a hundred boys through the Xbox Live Web site.
Then there's Nicholas Grigg--a convicted sex offender who allegedly solicited children in an online game while out on bail for child porn.
"He still has the gall to go out and try to communicate with children in a different environment," Szatkowski exclaims.
TODAY'S TMJ4'S Aaron Diamant decided to pay Grigg a visit at his Franklin home. Grigg spoke to us over an intercom.
Diamant: "I'm Aaron Diamant with Channel 4, is Mr. Grigg home, are you Mr. Grigg?"
Grigg: "Can I assist you? What is this in regards to?"
Diamant: "Well, I'm working on a story here, and got your name. I wanted to ask you about the way you were maybe using the Xbox while you were out on bail." After a long pause Diamant adds, "You still there?"
Grigg didn't want to talk to us, but he had plenty to say to young kids.
"Had he not been so brazen to actually call these boys on the phone, we might never have known that while the time he was out on bail he was continuing these relationships," Szatkowski says.
Which is why Dean will remain vigilant. "You love them and you don't want them to, you know, fall into the hands of someone that really doesn't care about them, that wants to take advantage of them," Dean says.
Dean says he will do everything he can to protect his kids from predators in places he never thought to look.
"They can't have their heads in the sand, and think, 'it's not gonna happen to my kid', because I guarantee you, none of the kids that we've worked with who've been victimized by online gaming ever thought they would be exploited, and none of their parents did either," Szatkowski says.
Szatkowski says there are limited parental controls on the Xbox Live. He says there's a reason parental controls are on the game, just like there's a reason you should have a filter on your computer.
You can find more information on parental controls at www.getgamesmart.com/