Written by STOPP Website Staff (12/07/2018)

When you hear about incidents of human trafficking you may think the victims were approached or kidnapped in public by someone that observes them from afar. But with ever-advancing technology and the rise of social media behemoths, a new and disturbing threat has been forming: online gaming. A creation whose purpose always seemed pure, gaming through the Internet allows you to talk to and game with someone across the street, across town, across the country, and across the world. According to a 2013 study, over 1.2 Billion people play video games across the globe and 700 Million of those are gaming online.

But like most things that grow in popularity it is only a matter of time before certain individuals have malicious intentions and human traffickers are no different. Everyday, children in your community are being targeted, snared, and manipulated into a world of sexual exploitation. They are groomed, enticed, and sometimes physically forced into selling themselves for sex. It is called Human Trafficking. It is modern day slavery without the chains and shackles of a century ago, but it is real and happening right under our noses.

According to the U.S. based International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, about 750,000 sexual predators worldwide are online at any given moment. They are not just the child molesters and sexual deviants that one might imagine but instead criminals with the intention to enslave and sell human beings. And now they have discovered that online gaming is an ideal place to remain faceless and interact with children and adults from all over the world. Gaming has become a perfect place for traffickers to groom possible victims as a first step to enslaving them. According to experts, Grooming involves befriending children, mostly aged 11 to 15, to gain their trust, before luring or coercing them to send sexual images or videos of themselves, which are shared online on password-only group networks and websites.

After starting a seemingly innocuous online friendship, children sometimes go on to meet their virtual ‘friend’ in hotels, cafes or parks, which can lead them to being trafficked and sold online. A third of all internet users in the world are under 18, according to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which has trained more than 10,000 law enforcement officers and specialists to investigate child sexual abuse. Children are being targeted in a place where they do not even realize they are at risk of anything beyond trash talk from fellow gamers. Experts say that children of previous abuse or who come from poor and broken homes are the most likely to fall prey to traffickers who prowl online gaming forums like Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto.

For more information on the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children check out their site: https://www.icmec.org

For more info on online gaming and human trafficking check out the following links: