Experts are warning children and parents about the growing threat of child luring on video game chat rooms.

4 things to watch for during video game chats

  • Individual will be friendly and request to be added as a friend.
  • Individual will give out cellphone number or social media username.
  • Individual requests a photo, and possibly a revealing photo.
  • Individual might use photos to threaten victim, force in-person meeting.

The threat of online chats through social networking sites has been a focus of police for some time.

But video game consoles also enable players to chat over the internet with anyone in the world while they compete.

This feature heightens the potential for online child luring, warns Signy Arnason, director of Cybertip.ca, because children are speaking with strangers who could pose as children, but actually be adults.

"If you have a sexual interest in children, you're going to find yourself in spaces where children hang out," said Arnason, whose group is operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

"If you want to exploit, harm, lure a child, well this is the space you need to find yourself in, in order to have access to these kids."

Most players are adults. The average age of a video gamer in Canada is 31 years old, according to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.

Canada doesn't have law for video game sites

In the U.S., thousands of registered sex offenders are not allowed on online video gaming sites. But in Canada, there is no law and it is not known how widespread the threat currently is.

Send your news tips to our new CBC Ottawa investigative team at cbcottawainvestigates@cbc.ca.

Arnason fears children are reluctant to tell their parents about any unusual conversations for fear of losing the privilege of gaming.

That is why Ottawa lawyer Mark Hecht said video game companies should monitor online chats.

"The technology is such that you don't actually have to have people viewing all these chats, but that you create the software that would flag conversations which could be questionable," said Hecht, who is also a spokesman for Beyond Borders, an agency that looks to protect children from sexual exploitation

"Then someone could jump in, monitor and if need be, pull the plug on it."

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Mark Hecht, spokesman for Beyond Borders, believes video game companies should introduce programs that flag dangerous chats. (CBC)

The Entertainment Software Assocation of Canada, which is responsible for video gaming north of the border, did not directly respond to the suggestion of monitoring online conversations.

In an emailed statement, the association did say child safety was important.

"The current generation of consoles has been equipped with tools designed to help parents and guardians manage content for their children," the statement said. "Parental controls, age protection and safeguards around social networks for younger users also complement the code of conduct that applies to all system users.

"Even though game consoles are relatively closed systems, parents and their kids should always use caution and vigilance when engaging with any form of connected media, especially on the internet and on social networks. ESAC encourages ongoing dialogue between parents and children as well as education around responsible use of media for kids in the home."