Perverts targeting kids on Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Avakin Life
An investigation by the Sunday People has found children increasingly are falling prey to paedophiles through video games.
More and more youngsters are being exploited by playing unseen opponents from around the world in various games, with the number of crime reports involving online games quadrupling in five years.
Many involve scores of sex offences against children, ranging from child pornography to sexual activity with children and even rape.
Popular games including Minecraft, Clash of Clans, World of Warcraft and Roblox – each with millions of users – have all been used by sex offenders to target children.
World of Warcraft
The NSPCC says the findings of our investigation are so "deeply concerning" there must be greater regulation of the industry.
We asked police forces in England and Wales to provide details of all reports of crimes involving online computer games in the past five years.
And information provided by 30 of the 43 forces shows that police logged 68 crimes last year – up from just 18 in 2012 – with most involving sex offenders.
The disturbing findings will stun parents of youngsters they believe are safe as they play video games at home in their bedrooms.
Suffolk Police revealed they had investigated a case of a 10-year-old girl being groomed via the online games IMVU and MovieStarPlanet.
And in Durham a suspected paedophile was investigated over sexual activity with a child under 13 after first making contact with the victim on Avakin Life – a 3D game for fashion lovers.
Meanwhile, Hertfordshire Police told of several cases in which children were asked to send explicit photos of themselves to adults they met while playing online games.
In one case, a girl under 16 was persuaded to send naked photos to a suspect she met on Minecraft. In another, a boy under 16 was playing Fresh Hotel when he was asked for obscene snaps.
The force said other computer games used by online predators include Marvel: Contest of Champions and SmallWorlds.
In Cambridgeshire, police quizzed a suspect over sexual activity involving children under 16 after the game Party In My Dorm was used to send explicit messages.
And in Devon and Cornwall, paedophiles used the popular games Club Penguin, World of Warcraft and Clash of Clans to contact victims asking for naked photos.
Greater Manchester Police revealed one case of game grooming led to the rape of a girl under 16.
The sickening attack was among nine sex offences linked to online games reported to the force in the past five years.
Norfolk Police disclosed a 25-year-old suspect was investigated for grooming a boy after making initial contact on Roblox.
South Yorkshire Police probed six cases where children were persuaded to send explicit photos of themselves via online games. Victims included a girl under 16 playing Empires and a boy under 13 playing Minecraft.
Cases in Bedfordshire included a 35-year-old man caught in possession of an indecent photo of a child received via Minecraft.
And in Avon and Somerset, a suspect was investigated after meeting a boy following sexual grooming on an unnamed online game.
All cases disclosed to us by police forces were logged on their system as alleged crimes and it is not known whether they led to prosecutions.
Our investigation comes after paedophile Adam Isaac was jailed in January for grooming young boys through Minecraft.