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Extremists are recruiting children as young as 12 on popular chat and online forums, the Australian Federal Police have warned, with a rising number of children being investigated for radicalised ideologies.
Roblox, a virtual universe gaming platform where users can program games for others to play, has seen scenarios such as Nazi concentration camps, Chinese communist re-education camps for Muslims, and Islamic state-style conflict zones.
Roblox is a metaverse that allows players to create their own environments.Credit:
Recently, users also hosted virtual pro-Palestine and pro-Israel gatherings and rallies, with players attacking others with opposing views.
The gaming platform has more than 65 million daily users, nearly half of whom are 12 or younger, and can be used on a phone, computer or game console.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett said religious and ideological extremists were using gaming platforms to disseminate propaganda, network, recruit and generate funds online.
“With more than 3.22 billion active gamers online around the world, these extremists are attempting to target a significant part of the global population to spread their views and propaganda with the aim of recruiting young people across popular platforms and games with the aim of encouraging them to adopt an extremist or radicalised view,” she said.
AFP assistant commissioner Krissy Barrett.Credit: Joe Armao
“The AFP is aware that some of these extremists are building and releasing games that really are just a Trojan horse to promote their worldview, blurring the reality of young users with the aim to radicalise them.
“We are urging parents and guardians to keep a close watch on who your children may be engaging with online.”
Roblox has been contacted for comment.
The AFP has reported an increase in the number of children as young as 12 being investigated for adopting violent extremist ideologies.
Those more at risk of radicalisation include children who are neurodiverse or have a mental health condition, have been raised in a disruptive, unstable or harmful environment, and have experienced social problems in their school life.
Last month, parents in the United States launched a civil action against the gaming platform for “negligent misrepresentation and false advertising” as being safe and appropriate for children while failing to protect them from explicit content or inappropriate encounters, according to Businesswire.
Barrett warned parents to be especially vigilant over the Christmas period, as children had more time over the holidays to engage with gaming and chat platforms and were more likely to get tech-based presents.
Warning signs include kids distancing themselves from their usual friends and family members, using hateful or emotionally charged language, or developing a fixation on conspiracy theories or contentious social issues.
Parents are encouraged to speak to their children regularly about their online activities and interactions, supervise their children online and make sure children feel comfortable talking about online issues.
Both the AFP and local police have community engagement teams who can direct parents to people with experience dealing with people holding extremist views.
Anyone with information or concerns about extremists engaging with children online is urged to report it to police.
If you think a child is in immediate danger call triple-zero or your local police (131 444).
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