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First-of-its-kind Gaming Headset Alters Children's Voices to Protect Against Online Predators

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Mobily Esports with Mullenlowe MENA launch the 'ProtectSet' to help make safety a priority in online gaming

First-of-its-kind Gaming Headset Alters Children's Voices to Protect Against Online Predators

To raise awareness of the urgent need to properly educate parents on the potential dangers of unsupervised online gaming, Mobily eSports, in partnership with MullenLowe MENA, has created the ProtectSet headset to make safety a priority. This pioneering voice‐changing technology is designed to help children stay safe while gaming online by masking their true age by making them sound older.

Experts and charities are warning that tighter restrictions need to be put in place to protect children online ahead of this year’s Safer Internet Day with parents urged to provide closer supervision amid the growing threat of online predators during the pandemic.

Indeed, 74% of mums and dads admit they are worried about their children’s online safety with a third unaware of who their kids talk to as they game online, according to new research from Mobily eSports.

It is a worrying trend as more children spend more time online during the pandemic with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) noting a monthly record of more than 15,000 reports of online child abuse in September alone.

The NSPCC found 1,220 online grooming offences against children occurred in the first three months of lockdown last year while the Breck Foundation (a charity set up after 14-year-old Breck Bednar was murdered after being groomed online) has received a record number of calls from worried parents.

About 45% of kids are thought to play popular video games such as Fortnite and Apex Legends but with them spending more time in their rooms during lockdown, away from their mums and dads, it is harder to monitor what they are playing and exactly who they are talking to and what they are discussing via chat messaging, actual conversations through headsets and player meeting hubs.

Almost half of parents believe their children speak to strangers online as often as two to three times a week but the true extent could be more serious with one in ten fearing their kids might be interacting with people they do not know every day. While gaming is mainly fun and safe, mums and dads are being advised to be vigilant and report any concerns with predators preying on children, actively contacting them online, building trust and then coercing them.

One way in particular that kids are being targeted is through hugely popular multi-player video games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox and APEX Legends, in which users can connect with and speak to people from anywhere in the world, including complete strangers. Predators often try to groom children by sending them gifts such as gaming currency, like Minecraft coins and Fortnight V-bucks, in the hope that down the line this will lead to explicit photos and video content being shared.

About 120,000 parents in December signed a ParentsTogether petition calling on Microsoft to “protect kids from the pandemic of sexual predators” on Minecraft. Little has been done to resolve the issues and the problem is only increasing across all forms of online gaming – according to a recent study by Strategy&, the GCC gaming market is expected to reach $821m by 2021 a huge increase from $693m in 2017. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to expand rapidly with mobile gaming dominating the market when it comes to revenue and penetration.

With children accessing school remotely and government advice to stay at home, children’s internet time has been rapidly increasing meaning additional exposure to the potential risk. Experts warn online predators are exploiting this situation, presenting “a grave and widespread threat.”

Historically, most parents have been more worried about the content of the games rather than who their kids were playing them with. But, with the increased popularity of online gaming, children’s privacy and security online are becoming increasingly prominent concerns.

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Categories: Awareness, Corporate, Social and PSAs

MullenLowe Dubai, Tue, 02 Feb 2021 12:21:53 GMT