As a survivor of child sexual abuse and a recovering addict I see the world very differently than most and as a parent this can be a very difficult process.
But I also always felt it put me on a higher state of alert.
The world we live in is a dangerous one and its even more dangerous now than the one I grew up in yet we would think with technological advances it would become safer!
Oh no not by any means, something happened this morning that brought these very real dangers home to me and I have been rattling around since trying to find a solution.
So, before school starts my son is often engaged on fortnite, rocket league or FIFA.
Much to my disapproval I might add but as a parent in a modern world I accept that this is the landscape our children are growing up in and so rather than have the battle in the morning I let him play.
As long as we are not late and he eats some breakfast.
Anyway, this morning my son calls me "Dad, come look at this."
I go upstairs and he shows me a message that someone sent him on his Xbox. the message read...
"I am a hot girl, send me some pics and I will send you mine."
As blatant as that! WTF is this!
I was pleased that my son called me and I guess that does show that he is listening when I warn him about strangers contacting him whether in person or online.
This is the first time this has happened and it really brought home to me that even in the safety of our homes are kids just are not safe anymore.
I spent the morning trying to figure out how did a stranger who was not on his friends list (yes I do check that and he only has a small number of school friends on there) message my son?
This is a huge failing in regards to safety and a basic issue that needs to be fixed.
I felt baffled as according to Fractus Learning, a company that recommends games and tools for children, the Xbox is appropriate for kids age 7 and up.
It is a scary thought to know these predators are circling kids while they are playing a game and we think all is as safe as can be.
Now I know what you are going to say...why did you not have the privacy settings changed
I set those up the day my son got his Xbox and so thought all was safe and well.
Yet somehow that message came through today.
So I jumped on the settings to double check and yes the privacy is still set to only friends.
As a parent this is a huge concern as from my end the settings are set so that strangers cannot contact him yet this one got through.
And worse still it was the exact type of message that I would like to protect him from!
I felt a bit confused and stuck with this so I started googling
This has happened to other people whose settings were on private but people who were not on their friends list managed to contact them.
As a parent I feel shocked and as a survivor I feel concerned. I reported the message and subsequently banned the user.
Of course however within my mind and heart I started to think about who this mystery person is stalking a gaming console looking for pictures.
Hoping that someone else's child does not respond to a message from him or her.
I had a chat with my son and reinforced our previous conversations regarding safety online and told him how happy I was with him for notifying me.
We have to be vigilant and make sure that we talk to our kids and keep an open line of communication in regards to their safety online and that this morning was a stark reminder to me that no safety system is fall proof.
I am going to look into this further and see what else can be done as well as what I can do in regards to notifying Xbox of their flaw and to see if there is anything the authorities can do about this strange character who asked my son for pictures this morning.
I just wanted to share this as a reminder not to become complacent with our kids being online.
I have the Xbox app on my phone now with notifications so every message my son receives I receive and no matter what we put in place still the best form of protecting our kids is in many ways communicating with them.
Stay safe out there and have a great day!
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