A mother-of-two said she felt ‘sick to her stomach’ after overhearing a man apparently try to groom her son through in-game chat on his Xbox.
The mother, from Liverpool, said her 12-year-old son was playing the online teen game Fortnite when a man began asking him to send naked pictures.
She claimed he offered the boy £50 to perform a sex act on him and also told him to ‘die slowly’.
The mother, who recorded the disturbing interaction, said she had been watching soaps in her bedroom when she heard the ‘disgusting’ questions echoing from her son’s room.
A mother-of-two said she felt ‘sick to her stomach’ after overhearing a man try to groom her son through in-game chat on his Xbox
‘I felt sick to my stomach, it was absolutely disgusting,’ she told Liverpool Echo in 2018.
‘I ran in and told my son to tell him (the other gamer) he was 12 years old, and ask him does he not think that is disgusting, to be talking to a 12-year-old like that?
‘And he said no – he didn’t care.
‘That is when I just lost it. I lost my temper and then told my son to get off the game and phoned the police.’
The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said her son thought the man might have been one of his friends after he added him under a username.
Speaking on the incident that occurred in 2018, she said: ‘He goes live with his friends online through the Xbox.
‘He was unsure when this man connected with him if it was one of his friends as they all have weird usernames.
‘But when he asked him for naked pictures he knew what to do and he took him off it (the game).
‘I asked him to get him back on so I could ask him what he had said, so I could record it and send it to the police.’
The game first game out in 2017 and is now available in three distinct game mode versions, it is immensely popular largely due to the fact it is free to use
Many Fortnite players will opt for a headset, to communicate and coordinate with their team members
The mother said her son is scared of playing the game after what happened, she said: ‘He is worried about going back on it now and to be honest I don’t want him on it either.’
Featuring ‘cartoon violence’, the game is rated suitable for only those over the age of 12. It is available on PC, Mac, PlayStation and XBox.
Free to play, it attracts millions of players who can choose to play in teams, or solo against 99 other players.
Many players will opt to wear a headset to communicate and coordinate with other players.
She said it’s ‘heartbreaking’ to see her son stray from the game and said he usually likes to interact with his friends on his Xbox after school.
She added: ‘He was up in the night and even going to school this morning he was worried, because he doesn’t know who this man was and why he added him.
‘He is only 12 and is only just learning about sex education and things like that.
The mother, who also has a young daughter, said: ‘My daughter heard what was said too and was very nervous about the police coming and didn’t know what was going on.
‘There is a camera on the Xbox as well, which I will be taking off if he does in time go back on it, but to be honest I don’t know whether I can trust it.
‘I have had a few nasty comments from people saying I am a bad mother because I have let my son go on Xbox Live but this is a children’s game and you would not expect this to happen.’
The mother said her son does not play on games that are over his age limit and she is ‘always near him’ when he is on the game so she can see what he is doing.
She added: ‘No adult should be on a children’s game, this man clearly wasn’t on there to play it, he just wanted to speak to kids.
‘I would just say, make sure you are somewhere where you can hear what is going on, if they are online.’
In response to concerns of many parents, a National Crime Agency spokesperson issued a warning via Twitter at the time in 2018. It read: ‘Fortnite is immensely popular with children and teenagers across the country.
In response to the concerns of many parents, an NCA spokesperson said in 2018: ‘Fortnite is immensely popular with children and teenagers across the country’
‘It features voice and text chat which cannot be turned off, so it’s important that parents and teachers understand that risks broader risks associated with the game and enable safe playing.’
More recently, the Mirror reported that a mother from London overheard a man trying to groom her son through his Xbox.
According to the mother-of-two she overheard an anonymous man telling her son to put his headset on and asking him: ‘Do you know what sex is?’
The mother said: ‘The tone of this person’s voice was horrible,’ and added that she immediately stopped the interaction but it ‘could have been much worse.’
She as issued a warning to parents, telling them to turn their audio off completely to protect their children.
Informing parents of the risk of online grooming Safeguarding Consultant Lorna Ponambalum told MailOnline: ‘Groomers will often create profiles where they pretend to be children or young people so they can attempt to build a trusting relationship with children playing online by offering compliments.’
To best protect their children, Lorna advised parents to monitor what games they are playing and how long for.
She said parents should look at the Pan European Gaming Information website to find the rating of the game, and consider the levels of violence and features, such as online chat, which are offered by the game.
Lorna added: ‘Parents should take an interest and talk to their children about the games they are playing. Perhaps even play the games with them.
‘Show them where they can get help if they are feeling unsafe and encourage them to talk to you or a trusted adult if they are concerned.’
The NSPCC also offers detailed advice for parents on how to keep their children safe online and identify grooming.
It says a child is ‘unlikely’ to know that they’ve been groomed and may be worried and confused and ‘less likely to speak to an adult they trust’.
Because of this, it is all the more important parents look out for the following warning signs they identify:
- Being very secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online
- Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
- Having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
- Underage drinking or drug taking
- Spending more or less time online or on their devices
- Being upset, withdrawn or distressed
- Sexualised behaviour, language or an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
- Spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time.
WHAT IS FORTNITE? THE FREE TO PLAY GAME LAUNCHED IN 2017 AND HAS TAKEN THE WORLD BY STORM
Fortnite is a game that originally launched as a disk back in July 2017 and was then turned into a free-to-download game by its developer, Epic Games, in September.
There are three forms of the game: ‘Battle Royale’, ‘Save The World’ and ‘Playground’.
Save the world is the original form of the game and is currently not available to play as part of the free-to-download game, instead it comes as part of a £30 ($40) extra.
It is a co-op mode with a story that’s playable solo or online with friends.
Fortnite is a battle royale-style survival shooter where players create a superhero avatar and compete against each other on a dystopian island
Users compete in teams of up to three to complete a variety of missions.
It is rumoured that the game will be added to the free-to-play version of the game in the future.
Whilst Save The World may be the original version of the game, its sister mode is by far the most popular.
Battle Royale is a game of survival where players create a superhero avatar and compete against each other on a dystopian island.
Each game, or ‘match’ as each competition is known, starts with 100 players.
The aim of the game is to be the last one standing. Users can form allegiances and play in small groups.
To enable this and the interactive experience, the game allows completely open communication between players.
Inspired by the Hunger Games novels and films, gamers search for weapons to help them survive.
Armed with quirky weapons and amusing dances, the game has swept across the gaming world, with children flocking to it.
While there is no exact figure on how many children play Fortnite, the game has so far pulled in an audience of over 125 million players.
Playground is the latest addition to the game and is a consequence free mode with more loot and unlimited respawning to allow players to get creative.
It involved groups of up to four people working as a team and the players can hone their skills as the practise in advance of entering Battle Royale where they will face better players.