BOSTON (CBS) – Imagine exposing your child to racial slurs, homophobia and x-rated content on a daily basis without even realizing it.
Well that’s exactly what could be happening if your child plays online video games.
Matthew Kinney loves to play online video games with his sons. What he doesn’t love is what his kids are hearing from the other players.
“Language that would make a sailor blush,” Kinney said.
That’s not surprising, according to Kevin Roberts, author of the book “Cyber Junkie,” considering the average gamer is 33 years old.
Roberts says when your child takes the game online and players start interacting, all content ratings go out the window.
“Incredible levels of profanity, racial epithets, homosexually oriented epithets,” said Roberts. “We’re talking eight, nine, ten, eleven year old kids who are getting exposed to this regularly.”
Internet safety expert Parry Aftab says inappropriate language can quickly turn into dangerous cyber-bullying.
“They may be trash talking, they may be calling you names,” Aftab said. “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.”
Policing the online conduct of players is difficult, but game companies are attempting to combat this problem with on-box warnings, parental controls and even a special task force.
Said Aftab: “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.”
But parental involvement is still the key. Ask your child to unplug the headphones and turn up the speakers so you can hear exactly what’s being said.
“Don’t let your kid go upstairs, close his bedroom door, and sit there and play all night,” warned Kinney. “That’s crazy. You have no idea what’s going on, who’s saying what.”
And teach them to take an active role against bullies, experts said.
“Tell them to block the person or the message,” Aftab said. “And then they need to come and get you. Tell a trusted adult.”
As for Kinney, he believes his proactive parenting allows the kids to enjoy the games while still staying safe.
“You teach them the best you can, and there have been times when they’ll disconnect,” Kinney said. “It’s like it just gets too bad and they know better.”
Microsoft said it has invested significant resources to monitor violations of conduct during online games. The company also said it will involve law enforcement when necessary.