"She started saying, 'Send me a picture of you,' and so I did."Grant asked for a photograph back, but it too was strange: a black and white photo of a photo.Then "teenaged girl" asked Grant if he wanted to meet in person."She asked if I wanted to go out on a date and I'm 8 and this is a 16-year-old."All the while, Grant's mother was at the grocery store, and saw the duplicate text pop up on her phone.There is no telling how often they chat with children, but the work keeps an entire squad of police detectives busy every single day at the Fairfax County Police Department's Child Exploitation Unit."It's difficult for a kid to figure out who they're talking to is really who they think they're talking to," said Lt. "Games and apps are popular with kids, so they are popular with predators. And two, I'm a 50-year-old guy who can use the persona of a 12-year-old boy and there's no way to find out that I'm not."The term police use for online predators who lure children is "grooming." The adult will ask for something small at first, and then demands will slowly increase."Then they'll ask for naked selfies, inappropriate videos, and worst case, asking to meet the kids," said Lt. Virginia court records from 2015 detail the ones who get caught:- An Arlington man targeted five teens online and had sex with one.- A 49-year old man found a 13-year-old girl on Facebook, then showed up at her Fairfax County middle school, and later sexually assaulted her.- A Virginia Beach man met girls under 16 through the online messenger app KIK and recorded sexual acts with one.- A child porn ring member in Lorton used You Tube to trick children, ages 8 to 14, into sexually explicit activity.- And a Chesapeake man distributed child porn via his Sony Play Station."I locked down our family phone, our laptop, but I never dreamed the PS2 would be a portal to predators," said one Northern Virginia mother of a teenager who prefers not to be identified.She was horrified, and then embarrassed, that she didn't realize the chat function on her son's games could lead to naked photographs being exchanged with a stranger. "Somebody's gonna show up at my front door when my nieces are here, when he’s home alone," she said. (WJLA) -- He was 8-years old, playing Clash of Clans on his handheld gaming device with friends online, when a new member of the clan messaged him mid-game."She started asking weird questions like, 'Hey, do you want my phone number?'" said the boy, now 10-years old, who we'll call Grant for the sake of privacy, which he very nearly gave up to a stranger in the console."I got her phone number and texted her," Grant said.“He doesn't understand that these people want to hurt him.”Dr.Sajjad Khan, a child psychologist with Neuro Science, Inc. Andrew Compton, an 18-year old patient in his former practice, "befriended" a man online who later sexually assaulted and murdered him.
My little brother learned his lesson the hard way."The FBI estimates there are 750,000 child predators online at any one time.She raced home, texted the stranger to leave her family alone, and explained to her young son the danger he nearly encountered. Grant's middle brother, a middle-schooler, explained how make believe is difficult to distinguish from reality."There's the game, and then click a few buttons, and then there's a whole other world."His eldest brother, a freshman in high school, said part of the problem is a lack of awareness, and an abundance of freedom.Clicking through is very convenient, it's fun, it's exciting, and it's devoid of environmental threats," said Dr. If a brain is deriving pleasure from an activity like gaming, the behavior is likely to continue, and a child won't sense danger."Kids have gotten into gaming, then found ways to pornography sites or into chat rooms, and given out personal information.
While Compton did not connect to his killer through gaming, some of the same principles may have applied.When kids are talking to people online, especially through games, "There is a perceived anonymity, a perceived safety you have in the comfort of your home. Khan points to the deep center part of the brain where we access primitive impulses that are associated with reward.