New kids' game a playground for predators



Brett Lee knows the red flags for child exploitation better than almost anyone. As a former undercover internet detective, Lee spent countless hours profiling and exposing online predators. 

And in his highly informed opinion, the new kids’ game Toon Blast - which explicitly encourages children to connect to strangers online - is about as dangerous as they get.

He filed this report:

The gameplay is familiar. In fact, at a glance, this game looks almost exactly like the popular Candy Crush Saga. Simply tap away at vibrantly coloured blocks and watch them pop and disappear on your screen.

But in an industry defined by ‘innovation’ and the pressure to one-up the last almost identical app, some seemingly-innocent games are now putting our kids at risk.

A great example is called Toon Blast – one of many games like it. It’s a mildly addictive puzzle game that utilises what experts call a micro-transactional business structure. You’re given a small number of ‘lives’ to start with, but once you’re hooked and you want more, you need to pay for them.

However Toon Blast is a little different. It also gives you the option to earn new lives by talking to complete strangers.

The game takes the usual tile-matching puzzle to the next level by introducing a social aspect. The app links to your Facebook account to make it easier for friends to connect. Players are encouraged to join and form teams, share scores, and ‘chat’.

But it’s not just about playing with your Facebook friends. Connecting with strangers is also easy. In fact, it’s encouraged. Some users have complained that they are not able to continue playing the game without being part of a ‘team’, so those that don’t have a Facebook account (users under the age of 13, for example) will need to connect with strangers in order to continue playing.

 brett lee.jpeg

 Cyber Expert and former internet detective Brett Lee of Internet Safe Education

Once you do join a team, there is no real way to identify fellow members. Sure, players are known by their username and a small picture of themselves. But both of these are easy to fake.

While chats are automatically moderated to remove foul language, that’s the extent of it. There is no added protection for users. The developers, having forced the younger users of a game made for children to interact with strangers, do not police the chat rooms. Anything could happen.

The game is rated ‘G’, for users of all ages. However, considering that it encourages users to interact with strangers, we would not recommend this game for children. The all-inclusive rating is just another example of why we need to stay vigilant as caretakers.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to keep track of all of the online activities of your child – especially if they have their own devices. Though through the work of our partner Family Zone we can help give you the tools you need to safeguard your kids.

Among other things, Family Zone’s service allows you to easily restrict app downloads so you can check what your kids are putting on their phones. The service also allows you to block dangerous or explicit content, set internet usage limits, and more – both in and out of the home.  

We also strongly advocate the power of communication. Make sure you’re having the right conversations about these problems with your kids over the dinner table. And be sure to let them know they can always talk to you about any issues they may be having.


Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety, online predators

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents must know about this dangerous game for kids
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Parental Controls | Screen time | online gaming | roblox | sleep
    Family Zone: Now blocking Roblox with a single click
    Parental Controls | Screen time | teens on social media | wellbeing | dating app
    Swipe right for trouble: Six teen dating apps parents need to know about
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe

    Recent posts

     
    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

     
    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

     
    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

     
    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?