There's no denying that sending your child online to play a game alone is like sending a puppy into a lion's cage at the zoo. If you want someone to experience the crassness of society, you can get a quick lesson playing Call of Duty, Battlefield, or even UNO as teenagers call you every name in the book (and some you didn't even know existed). Anyone that plays games online knows this, but it's always interesting to see how local news channels handle such topics. Usually they handle it badly, but one station does a good job of delivering a balanced report..
Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC 7 offers an example in this report about how "experts" say that letting your child play games online is equivalent to giving them a dollar and pushing them through the doors of a seedy strip club.
In the report they talk to Matthew Kinney, a father who enjoys playing games online with his son. What he doesn't love, the report says, is what his kids are hearing from the other players. Kinney describes the online banter as "language that would make a sailor blush."
Kevin Roberts, author of the book 'Cyber Junkie,' says he is not surprised, noting, curiously enough, that the average gamer is 37 years old. What he probably should have noted is that a large percentage of that abuse comes from young children and teens who see Xbox Live as a great place to relieve stress by calling older players every unspeakable thing their limited vocabularies can conjure up.
Roberts tells the news station that when kids go online all the age ratings recommendations "go out the window."
"Incredible levels of profanity, racial epithets, homosexually-oriented epithets. We're talking 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-old kids who are getting exposed to this regularly," said Roberts.
Internet Safety expert Parry Aftab says that adult or inappropriate language in online gaming is rampant. She thinks that this type of language leads to "dangerous cyber bullying."
"They may trash talk. They may be calling you names. They may steal their passwords. Or a lot of them may gang up on one online, not because it's a good strategic win, but to hurt the other person," said Aftab.
She acknowledges that platform holders like Microsoft have special teams that deal with this sort of behavior. This is combined with content warnings on games specific to online interactions, and the use of the console's parental control system.
"They have an Xbox LIVE enforcement squad that is one of the best enforcement groups looking for grooming activities and online sexual predators, as well as cyber bullying," said Aftab.
But she says that parental involvement is the most important thing.
"Don't let your kid go upstairs and close his bedroom door, and sit there and play all night," said Kinney. "That's crazy. You have no idea what's going on, who's saying what."
You can watch a video of the report here.