Thursday, January 19, 2012

Internet Safety and Kids: Parents Do Your Duty & Beware of MapleStory

It's pretty much old news, that some internet sites are created for kids to use and that they claim to have children's safety in mind.

If the site has any kind of free text box to chat, you had better watch out. Even a site designed for tweens and younger aged kids needs monitoring.

My younger son (age 11) has been playing a free role playing game on the Internet. This creeped in shortly after he saved his money to buy his own laptop. We had a ban on video games via xBox360 in the house except for two hours Saturday and two hours Sunday.

The creeping in thing happened for multiple reasons that happened at once. First, we had just moved to Texas in the 100-105-108 degree heat and drought of August 2011. It was too darned hot to go outside. We don't have a swimming pool at our house. I was busy unpacking and organizing the house and getting ready for homeschooling so I could not take the kids out to community swimming pools and to other places. My kids had not made friends yet, there was no one to play with. This is a small house with an open floor plan so what one person has on the TV is heard through the whole house. I didn't want more video games played. While older son did homeschooling in the quiet house younger son (who finished homeschooling faster) was playing a silent video game on the laptop: MapleStory.

I have looked at MapleStory and had not found a problem until today. There is a free text area where my son was chatting about game play, tips and tricks.

MapleStory is moderated and someone is supposed to make sure the chat is in alignment with the rules. Swearing is not allowed nor are sex jokes. Today something told me to look.

Today when I looked my stomach turned. I moved my son aside and scrolled back to read the chat. In order for you to think that I am not crazy I am going to blog the explicit details of the discussion. .

In the discussion multiple players were asking the other players to be Facebook friends for offline chat. (This is a common way that pedophiles contact children.)

If you do not wish to read what is being put on a site for children and tweens, stop reading now.

Being discussed was anal sex between males. One person said he likes it to be tight. One said he likes it from behind. The other said he likes to get it from the front. There was a reference to being in the shower and bending over to get the soap. Then there was a mention of transvestites and asking if the person was one.

That kind of talk goes beyond the rule violation of making a sex joke.

I read the site's rules and could not find more detailed rules about what happens if members try to lure other members off the site for discussion. Nothing was said about the punishment for outright sex chat but there were punishments for sex jokes (3 day ban for first violation, 9 day ban for 3rd violation and nothing said about 4th time or more).

My son told me that you can report problems. I filed a report against one player who was doing the sex chat. It is set up so you have to file a report against each person one by one. I tried to do a report on person two but it said that they limit submission reports to from one player once a week. So how are you supposed to report inappropriate behavior online?

I contacted the company and have a ticket number. We'll see what they say.

Meantime my son is banned from MapleStory, not because he did the sex chat but because I feel it's an unsafe place for kids.

The joke is that in trying to have my kids play less video games I limited the xBox360, but the truth is that is more controllable than free games on the Internet. My son was addicted to MapleStory and played for hours every day, it was something I was struggling with managing. I may as well just let the kid use xBox360 more often, at least he can't be contacted by potential sexual predators and child molesters or just sick people having detailed sex chat in an open game forum.

Companies who create video games and other websites specifically for children to use have an ethical duty to provide a safe environment. Based on what I saw yesterday I don't feel that Nexon - MapleStory is doing their job well enough.

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

thank you for posting this. I have wondered how well monitored these sites are. My nine year old is old enough to be interested in some of the commercials for these, and I have been conflicted. I really appreciate the information :)

And welcome to you and your family to Houston!

naci said...

Hi,

My 10 year old son was almost addicted to MapleStory. He is allowed to play only during weekends but then he doesn't want to do anything else.

Last week my wife saw on the screen (probably free text area) going along "how to pick girls ..."

My son had loved to play Pre Evolution Soccer in his PS3, I believe consoles are safer.