RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – There's a good chance your child has a gaming system. But do you really know what they're up to while they're in the next room playing?
NBC12 did some investigating and discovered many of the gaming systems have online capabilities -- giving strangers access to your child.
For 9-year-old Michail Williams and 12-year-old Dashanti Wynn, video games are an innocent source of fun -- a way to unwind and get some exercise.
Concerned mother, Michelle Williams keeps a close eye on what's played, and for how long. "As long as you do your work at school and you are on a good level, I will let you play it -- but you are not going to play it for hours, hours and hours," she said.
The after school session on Xbox is just one side of the gaming world. Gamers we talked to, like 18-year-old Alex Smith, say there's a darker, more intense side to gaming -- it happens when kids connect and play online.
"Nobody can see you, nobody knows you. You can say the most horrible awful things that you would never say, even stuff like sexism and racism will come out from kids that you never even had an inkling of that before," she said.
Parents, if you're just concerned with violent games, Smith says there's more to worry about. She says some players are looking for more than just competition. "They did hit on me, they were like, so naked pics, naked pics is really what they asked for," she told us.
We sat in on one of the chat sessions to see what your child could be exposed to on the other side of the headset. It didn't take long for the X-rated talk to start. Most of it we couldn't air on television.
Arron Bowles, owner of Play-N-Trade says parents have to treat online gaming systems just as they would an online chat room -- use caution.
"The majority of kids are playing online now, wether it's Xbox 360 or PlayStation," he said. Parents, this may ease your fear -- there are privacy settings to block access to the Internet and the violent content.
Gray asked an employee at Play-N-Trade, "Do you think that parents know they have the ability to do this?" Employee, "I honestly don't think they do. When you get the system it comes with a pamphlet saying you can do it, and it pops up there -- but I think they all skip it."
Gamers say wether it's the Xbox or Wii -- parents have the control -- they just have to take time and read and understand what their child is doing.
Before you point fingers at other children -- gamers warn -- your child could be the bully.
One Play-N-Trade employee tells us, "I have had 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, 6-year-olds even, they will talk to me like they are an adult and because their parents are not in the room with them they are by themselves, home alone or upstairs in a different room."
"These kids are just putting out these awful personas and I think if these parents knew they would disconnect the internet for life," Smith said.
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