Darker side of child’s play online: some apps may expose children to sexually inappropriate content

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INDIANAPOLIS — Children are being exposed to inappropriate sexual games, ads, and images while playing games on phones and digital devices. FOX59 is sounding the alarm, warning parents, and helping you fight back.  

Mom Katie Warthan noticed an inappropriate ad pop up on her young son’s game.

“I was shocked, and I couldn’t believe something like that would be marketed to my 9-year-old,” Warthan said.

When she tried to report the content, she quickly become frustrated.

“Games make it hard to report,” Warthen said. “We couldn’t find the report button.” 

Jonathan Wallace, special investigator with the ISSBA Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau for Indiana, fights trafficking and child sexual exploitation. He says more parents are finding inappropriate ads being marketed to their underage children.  He says there is a lot of money in it for the gaming companies.  

Ilonka Deaton is a counselor working with survivors of trauma and sexual exploitation. She says sexually explicit ads marketed to children is child abuse and can lead to porn addiction and worse.  

“That’s pornography,” Deaton said. “Whenever an individual presents sexual material to a child that exposes that child to any kind of a sexual material, it’s pornography.”

She also says desensitizing children to sexual content can make children a target of sexual predators. Deaton says it is critical parents and adults become the front line of defense for protecting our children.  

In January 2020 President Trump signed an executive order on combating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the U.S. Part of that order strengthens the response to online child sexual exploitation including explicit ads in gaming. Reporting it is key. 

How to fight back against sexually explicit content in children’s games: 

Post reviews warning other parents on the game’s app page.  
– Report it to the Cyber Tipline 1-800-842-56-78 or the human trafficking line 1-888-373-7888.  
– Download monitoring software on all your family devices like Covenant Eyes. It will monitor, block, and send you a report of any sexually explicit content so you can report it from there. 

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