In the latest bit of video game-related hysteria, the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force has put out notice to parents that warns against the dangers of online play. Because there are no cyber watchdogs on constant patrol, online-enabled games have attracted predators who are looking for innocent children.
In this specific instance, the Nintendo Wii game Animal Crossing: City Folk is being targeted as a possible danger zone for kids. The article claims that three children have been contacted, but goes no further in giving details about what may or may not have happened.
Furthermore, Andy Anderson of the Internet Crimes Task Force claims “There is no reason an adult should have this game.”
Well … okay. Here’s what it is. Yes, it’s true that the Internet is a potentially dangerous place for children. There’s no denying that. Parents should monitor their kids’ online activities for any number of reasons. But I’ll bet you that the audience for the Animal Crossing games contains more adults than actual children.
Saying that there’s no reason for adults to be playing this is simply ridiculous, and betrays a complete lack of understanding on the part of the people who are meant to be watching out for us, and that’s concerning to me as an adult, as a gamer, and as a father. Later in the article Anderson also says “The equipment is real expensive and we cannot afford to buy all of the systems and do not have the resources either to examine all of the possibilities.” What equipment is he talking about? Presumably an Internet Crimes Task Force should have what it needs to do the job properly, or it’s not really a task force at all, is it? It’s akin to being a lifeguard and not knowing how to swim.
There are ways to manage this Internet of ours so that it’s safe for our kids to play in, but it requires some research on the parent’s part — and on the part of the authorities. Let’s face it: it’s a scary world out there, period. Our kids look to us to protect them, and to help them learn to protect themselves. If the Internet is too much of a threat for you to handle, parents, keep your kids off it until they’re old enough to handle it. Nobody’s forcing you to let them play online games. But please don’t go off half-cocked and make extreme statements like Mr. Anderson. In the end, that serves no one.