A Japanese man was recently arrested for allegedly kidnapping a nine-year-old girl whom he met through an online game, and for confining her for more than two days.
The 38-year-old man, Akihito Otake, was said to have abducted the girl in his car at around 4pm on Sept 2 in Yokohama city, Tokyo.
According to reports, Otake and the child met through an online multiplayer game whereby different groups competed with each other.
She was said to have used one of her parents’ smartphone to play the game and supposedly used the game’s voice chat function to communicate with Otake on the time and location of their meet-up.
On Sept 2, while playing with her friends at a park, the girl told her friends that she was going to meet “a friend in Tokyo”.
However, she did not return home past her 5pm curfew which led her mother to call the police.
Through security camera footage, police officers managed to identify Otake’s car and track him to his home in Katsushika ward.
On Sept 5, at about 3 am, the man was driving out from his home when the police stopped him for questioning. That was when they found the girl in the backseat of his car.
Otake reportedly admitted to the charge of abducting the girl following his arrest that day.
Fortunately, the primary school pupil did not suffer any injuries and was taken into protective custody.
Tips for parents if your child Is engaged in online gaming
These tips may be simple, but they are key to helping your child stay safe while getting the entertainment that they crave for.
1. Take an interest in the games your child likes to play
Surely, we know that our children play a variety of games and they install way too many apps on the smartphone. But how much do we actually know about the games that they are playing?
Perhaps, it’s a sign that parents should start taking an active interest in the kind of games your child is playing, including how they work and what is it about the game that attracts them.
Doing so not only allows you to spot any potential red flags, but also motivate your child in sharing their experiences in the game. This will help you identify if there’s any cause for concern.
2. Find out who your child is playing these games with
For some children, it might be a little tricky to get them to reveal this information (read: privacy).
But if you appear as genuinely interested in what your child is playing, you might be able to casually ask who they engage with online, the people they meet and talk to (if applicable) or even, how players in the game usually communicate.
Above all else, ensure that your child is aware of how to report abusive behaviour. Muting voice chat and/or limiting the use of a headset are also ways to help your child avoid any potential troubling behaviour.
3. Airplane mode: On
Not applicable in all scenarios of course, but for younger children, turning on ‘airplane’ mode on your digital devices can help to avoid potential accidental purchases or even connecting with strangers online.
4. Ensure that the games are age-appropriate
How many people actually look at App store ratings to ensure that the apps or games played are age-appropriate for kids? Explain to your child why certain games are allowed and why others are not.
5. Get children to think for themselves
No one likes to be told what to do, likewise for children. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child how to think critically to help protect themselves.
Why should one limit keeping friendships in the game instead of adding them to other social networks?
Why is it important to avoid sharing personal information? Get them to think about these issues on their own.