On line gaming is no longer just a game. On line gaming has now become violent and deadly. Another deadly fact is that many teenagers and parents are not aware of how dangerous on line gaming has become. Most teenagers that I work with view on line gaming as just away to have fun and as away to socialize with people. Many teens see no problems with gaming. Many parents are concerned about on line predators. Unfortunately, most parents do not have many other safety concerns about on line gaming. However, there are reasons why parents should be concerned about their teenagers safety when they are involved with on line gaming.
This last week we heard about on line gaming and “swatting.” Many people may be wondering what is “swatting”? Wikipedia states “Swatting is the harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or other alleged incident.” In other words, if someone you are gaming with on line gets angry with you, they make a phony call to 911 trying to get the police or Swat team to show up at your house.
Remember, with on line gaming you can be gaming with people in different cities, states or even other countries. You know nothing about the person expect for what they posted on their on line gaming profile or what they say to you on line. Therefore, you really know nothing about these people. They may have an anger issue, a violent past and there is no way that you can find out. Most teenagers assume they are playing with someone who is interested in the same game and wants to play the game.
However, these people are into on line gaming. Therefore, many of them are very interested in computers and know about coding and hacking. Therefore, while your teenager does not post their address or tell the people they are playing with their address, one of their players can hack into the game system and get their address. They now have the information needed to call 911 and report your teen for a false crime.
Swatting has been occurring for years, however, it has not been widely reported in the news until this last week. A man from Los Angeles called 911 to report someone he was gaming with in Nebraska. Unfortunately, he had the wrong address. The man made several allegations such as he was holding his mother and brother in a closet and was going to shoot them. He also said that he had poured gasoline all over the house and was getting ready to light a match. Now with the increase in shootings and violent attacks in the United States, the police are on high alert. These people making the fake “swat call,” also can make it look like the call is coming from the address they are giving. Now with the Nebraska situation, the prank caller had the wrong address. The man who answered the door had no idea what the police where doing at his house. He made a move towards his waistband, probably to get his wallet, but the police thought he was reaching for a gun. The man was killed. He was 25 years old and a father to a 3 year old child. His family is mourning and his child will grow up without a father because an on line gamer was mad at someone he was gaming with and decided to get payback with a Swat Prank. There is no other way to say this, but this prank is stupid and totally irresponsible. The person doing the prank is putting another family, police officers and their families at risk for a similar tragedy because they got mad about a play on an on line game. If this is where these games are going then they need to be regulated and teenagers should not be playing on line games.
As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I hear many teens talk about these games. They like they idea they can connect with other people in other states and countries, but they are not aware of the dangerous. They are still teenagers and assume nothing bad will happen to them. They believe these things may occur but they happen to other people. This is how teenagers think, therefore, parents you must step in. You need to educate your teenagers and possibly prohibit your teenagers from playing these games. This may not be a popular decision, but remember, being a parent is not a popularity contest. Please look into Swatting and other risks associated with on line gaming and do what you feel is in the best interest of your teenager and family.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.