“What in the world is World of Warcraft?” you may be asking. It’s an online fantasy game that is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) with over 11 million subscribers. In the game player’s select character types, like Orcs, Dwarves or Humans, and then develop their characters by completing various quests or missions. In the game they can interact and team up with other players. This can all be great fun but the danger lies in whom your kids may meet and interact with. With 11 million players to run into almost all of them are going to be strangers who may have unscrupulous intentions.
In a recent news story Angie Jenkins, a 35-year-old Michigan mom, met a 15-year-old boy on World of Warcraft (yes this game is not just for kids or boys but lots of women and adults play the game). The relationship progressed and they started talking on the phone. Angie asked the boy to send her graphic images of himself, and he did. The boys’ parents became aware that something was going on when they notice numerous out-of-state phone calls on his cell phone. They interceded by taking his cell phone away but Angie bought him a new one. Angie then drove from Michigan to Amherst, NY to meet the boy in the parking lot of a department store. The two had sex in the back of her car. Angie told the boy she’d kill herself if he ended their relationship.
For her actions Angie was sentenced to over 7 years in prison and was ordered to pay $4,480 in restitution to her victim. She was also ordered to receive a mental health evaluation. Unfortunately, neither her prison term nor the money she had to pay can undo what she has done to the mind of a 15-year-old boy that was just online playing a fantasy game.
Parents do you know what online games your kids are playing? Do you know if they have the ability to talk with online strangers in the game? If not start to ask those questions and ask your kids to show you how the game works. It’s one step towards preventing your kids from becoming a victim of an online predator – even a predator as innocent sounding as a 35-year-old mom named Angie from Michigan.