Following on from our news last Friday about the ABC News debacle
surrounding the supposed dangers of DS Pictochat to children, its come to our attention that ABC News were informed beforehand of the facts, but chose to ignore them and publish a misleading report clearly aimed at frightening parents and causing a moral panic.
GamerDad, which is SPOnG’s new favourite site for all things to do with gaming and parenting, reported that one of their writers, David Long, was interviewed in depth for the piece by Nydia Han of Channel 6 Action News in Philadelphia (an ABC Affiliate) and that Mr Long made it clear to her that Pictochat was neither an Internet-enabled service, nor a threat to children from potential paedophiles anonymously attempting to meet or ‘groom’ children over the service.
It seems Ms Han then decided to totally ignore all of the facts as presented to her by GamerDad's Long and run with the erroneous and misleading story about an 11-year old girl being stalked over Pictochat in a WiFi hotspot.
Now, whilst this is merely an ABC News affiliate mis-reporting a story about gaming - which regional press all over the world do with alarming regularity - it's still worth pointing out that the story was picked up by hundreds of gaming news sites and forums (SPOnG included) and even on Slashdot.
As GamerDad’s David Long makes clear: “What's not in the story is anything explained by the GamerDad this reporter consulted before going to air. On Monday morning, I received a call from of Channel 6 Action News, asking me about this exact story, the workings of the Nintendo DS, Pictochat and Wi-Fi. I was at first sort of dumbfounded by the idea of a child being contacted by someone through Pictochat because it's not Internet enabled in any way. In order to talk to someone through this application, you must be within 30 to 100 feet of the person (or persons... it supports 16 person chat rooms) you're talking to…. meaning you could probably see whoever it is you're talking to if you just got up and walked around looking for someone holding a Nintendo DS.”
Mr Long goes on to stress that he talked to the reporter for a good 15 minutes about how rogue Pictochatters in public are not a threat to children and how, “...even after I received a call-back asking if it were possible for this to happen at one of Philadelphia's 'Wi-Fi hotspots' which are also mentioned in the article….I stated specifically that Pictochat would still not work because it doesn't ever make any connection with a network as it has no means of connecting to an Internet Service Provider”
Mr Long also talked to the reporter about DS Friend Codes and how they work, specifically that you have to know your friends codes to play games online with them. However, unfortunately Ms Han either didn’t understand any of the information which GamerDad gave to her regarding DS and online play/Pictochat or - and this seems far more likely - she chose to ignore it as it didn’t fit in well with the overall tone of the piece she wanted to write. Which was an irresponsible moral panic attack piece, blaming the Nintendo DS for being directly responsible for the child in question being stalked.
As Long says: “Unfortunately, the story is written in such a way that nothing I said is made clear at all. The story essentially makes it sound like your kids can be contacted on the DS by anyone at any time and that you should beware of predators with Nintendo DS lurking on every corner and on the Internet.”
You can see Long's full report on the shameful matter at GamerDad
In brighter news, GamerDad also draws our attention to the fact that gamers make good fathers. It seems that dads who play videogames with their kids not only get to spend more quality time interacting with their children (i.e., instead of passively watching TV, DVD’s and so on) but that they also know a lot more about which games are best/worst for their children (yes, they actually look at the age-ratings on games and know what they mean) and they encourage their children to use technology and the Internet in a useful, responsible way. Oh, and dad gamers are generally smart, good at maths and like LEGO too.
SPOnG has been trying to explain all of this to our better halves for years.