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IT’S a sunny day in the park, and a group of university students have brought along everything they need for their campaign against child sex predators – a laptop, a pair of headphones, and blindfolds.

The students from KDU University College (KDUUC) had come up with a simple yet ingenious idea on how to educate children about child sexual grooming. They created an audio game, which any school with a computer can download and use with their students.

The game brings players into the world of Alice In Wonderland, where they are confronted with questions from the various characters of the classic fantasy story.

Suemitraa and her team designed an audio game that takes players into Wonderland, where characters ask players seemingly-innocuous questions that take a predatory turn.

Suemitraa and her team designed an audio game that takes players into Wonderland, where characters ask players seemingly-innocuous questions that take a predatory turn.

It starts out with questions that sound innocent enough, like whether the player would like some candy, to which he/she can respond with a simple yes or no. Most children would say yes, of course.

But each question leads the player deeper and deeper into this world, until finally, the illusion is shattered. The characters are revealed to be the bad guys despite all the nice things they offered, and they’ve led the player to the evil queen.

It’s a simple but powerful and immersive lesson to children about child sexual grooming, the process of befriending a child for future sexual exploitation. It is now the number one modus operandi for sexual predators in Malaysia.

R.AGE’s Predator in My Phone project has been uncovering the dark reality of child sexual grooming in Malaysia for the past five months, by filming actual sex predators as they attempt to “groom” undercover journalists disguised as 15-year-olds.

R.AGE producer Chen Yih Wen was at KDUUC to give a talk on the Predator in My Phone series.

R.AGE producer Chen Yih Wen was at KDUUC to give a talk on the Predator in My Phone series.

And that was what inspired the KDUUC students’ project, which they submitted as an assignment for their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) class.

Their project was just one of many creative ideas designed by the students of the class after their lecturer invited R.AGE to give the students a screening of the Predator series and a Q&A session.

“Predator in My Phone was really eye-opening for us,” said Suemitraa Thiagarajan, 26, one of the students. “You always think it only happens somewhere else, but the Predator videos showed that it’s going on right here, and it’s really scary.”

So far, Suemitraa and her team have tested out their game on their fellow students as well as the people at the park in Petaling Jaya, and the results have been promising.

“Most of the older folks who tried the game in the park said they can imagine their kids falling for this kind of grooming,” said Suemitraa.

“And that’s the point of our campaign – to show people how easy it is for teenagers to get sucked in by sex predators.”

       RELATED : THE JOURNEY FOR LAWS AGAINST CHILD SEXUAL GROOMING

Simulating grooming
But the audio game was just one of many impressive projects by the students.

Heng Li Hui, 19, a game development student who also sat for the CSR class, designed a chat simulator with her teammates to demonstrate how sex predators would groom children on chat apps.

As shown in the Predator videos, smartphone chat apps like WeChat and Bee Talk are now being widely used by sex predators to engage children.

The simulator designed by Heng and her team allows children to chat with a character, a close family friend.

“The text messages from this ‘godfather’ character has a lot of hints. He’s pushy, he wants to bring the child to his home and so on,” she explained.

“It’s one way to let people experience what a victim of sexual grooming goes through.”

In the end, whether the player chooses to agree to go to his house or not, the ‘parents’ of the player will discover the chat messages and lodge a police report, and that’s where the player is hit with the ending – the police cannot take any action because sexual grooming is not illegal in Malaysia.

“We tried to apply as much as we could from the R.AGE lecture in our university,” said Heng. “And we remember the journalists telling us that the police couldn’t do anything about the predators they investigated, because there aren’t any laws against grooming in Malaysia yet. That’s something we wanted to promote.”

According to Heng, most of the people who played the game couldn’t see the twist at the end coming. “They’re usually shocked, because they don’t expect the godfather to be a sex predator.”
Suemitraa was also alarmed by just how many who tested their audio game were oblivious about sexual grooming.

“People don’t know it’s wrong, and that’s the problem. It reminded me of when I was 12. I was in a Mandy Moore chat group, and I added a random stranger there to my ICQ account to continue chatting.

“But then suddenly, he sends me a picture of his penis! I just ignored it, but when I watched the Predator videos, I realised he was probably grooming me. I thought he was just being weird, but now I know it’s more than that,” she said.

KDUUC lecturer Steve Lam, who oversaw the CSR class and the 15 projects that came out of it, said supporting R.AGE and the Predator campaign has given his students a new appreciation of journalism and social responsibility.

In response to the Predator series, KDUUC students like Suemitraa and her team designed games as part of a CSR class, campaigning against child sexual predators

In response to the Predator series, KDUUC students like Suemitraa and her team designed games as part of a CSR class, campaigning against child sexual predators

“Many of them benefitted from the process of researching the issue,” he said. “I’m confident this campaign will be a catalyst for students to go into the world of journalism and champion social causes.”

To download the child sexual grooming awareness games and simulators mentioned in this story, go to the
R.AGE Facebook page, where we will be sharing links to the KDUUC students’ projects today.

About

Ian is the editor of R.AGE. He hates writing about himself.

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