Sexual predators targeting children through video game consoles, tablets

Posed photograph of hands over a laptop to illustrate an article on sexual crime. - The Straits TImes/Asia News Network

TOKYO: A growing number of children are falling victim to sexual crimes as a result of meeting adult strangers via Internet-based devices such as video game consoles and tablets.

According to National Police Agency findings, more than 230 children over a five-year period ending last year became victims of such crimes after connecting to social media sites using communication devices other than smartphones, cell phones and PCs.

Unlike smartphones, parents and guardians are often unfamiliar with the Internet capabilities of some devices, leading experts to urge that steps be taken to filter content.

One guardian was shocked, saying, "I had no idea my daughter was talking with a strange adult over the Internet."

In February 2015, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested two men on suspicion of violating the law against child prostitution and pornography. The victim was a girl in her third year of middle school, aged 15 at the time of the incident.

She had no cell phone but accessed Twitter and other free communication apps by borrowing a tablet for a distance-learning course from her younger brother.

According to the NPA, the number of children who have fallen victim to sexual abuse through the use of communication sites such as social networking services has exceeded 1,000 a year since 2007.

A steadily increasing number of these victims have come into contact with suspects through devices other than smartphones, cell phones or PCs: five in 2011, 24 in 2012, 45 in 2013, and 99 in 2014.

In the first half of 2015 alone, the total climbed to 65 victims.

The spread of Wi-Fi services allows for easy Internet access in places such as subways and convenience stores.

"Children are at increased risk of encountering a large, indefinite number of adults in places their parents and guardians are unaware of," said an official involved in the investigations.

According to the Internet-Rating Observation Institute in Tokyo, which monitors harmful websites, devices such as video game consoles and music players need to follow the lead of cell phones and come equipped with settings that can disable access to certain sites, as well as allow content to be filtered using means such as commercial software.

"We should avoid blithely sharing devices with no connection restrictions with children, and also stop giving [THE DEVICES]to them as hand-me-downs," said a spokesman of the institute.

"We ask that families set rules regarding device usage and check to make sure children aren't visiting harmful sites." - The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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