24 men—including a cop—were arrested for luring kids for sex using online games.

As if parents needed another reason to fret about their kids’ Fortnite obsession, let’s add child predators to the list.

New Jersey authorities have announced the outcome of their statewide undercover sting “Operation Open House,” and it should put all parents on watch. A police sergeant, a firefighter, a nurse, and a convicted sex offender were among the 24 men arrested for trying to lure kids and teens online into meeting them for sex. The men used various online venues, including popular games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox, to communicate with their potential victims.

You read that right. A police officer and a firefighter—our revered “good guy” first responders—were among the accused predators. Undercover officers engaged in online chats with the suspects in order to catch them attempting to engage in sexual activity with minors—and it worked.


Twenty-four men caught preying on children online. In just one sting. In just one state.

I know. I want to puke, too.

The undercover officers posed as 14- and 15-year-olds, chatting with the men who claimed to be teens too.

Richard Conte, a 47-year-old police sergeant in the Howell Township Police Department, thought he was chatting with a 15-year-old girl on social media when he arranged to meet with her. When he arrived at the Toms River house they agreed upon, he was met by a Toms River police officer and arrested.

Conte, along with the 23 other men caught during “meet week,” tried to meet kids and teens in person for sexual activity. Posing as teenagers themselves online, they deceive their victims into thinking they’re going to meet up with a peer. Conte had told the undercover officer (the one he thought was a 15-year-old girl) that he was a 19-year-old male. Since the arrest, Conte has been suspended from the department without pay.

All 24 men are charged with luring. Some also face additional charges of attempted sexual assault on a child.

There are some things parents can do to protect kids—besides shuttering them in a tower with no internet access until they’re 21.  

As a parent, stories like this are terrifying. We all like to think our kids are smart enough not to fall prey to sickos online, but they're kids. Their brains aren’t fully developed, they don’t always exercise the best judgement, and predators know how to manipulate them. It’s tempting to want to just ban the internet and never let them leave the house.

But we live in a world that is very much intertwined with—and in many ways reliant on—the internet. Making online spaces safer and preparing kids with the skill they need to wisely navigate online worlds will go farther in keeping them safe in the long term.

“It’s critical that parents talk to their children about social media and chat apps to let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seemed to be,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a press conference.

Parents need to warn their kids and explain what strangers are capable of. This is one instance where scaring kids crapless seems perfectly justified. It’s also important for parents to utilize built-in safety features. If you don’t think your child is ready for in-game chatting with strangers, you can turn off that feature in many games.

It takes vigilance to keep our kids safe, both online and off. This is a good reminder to not let our guard down, no matter how popular or common an online game may be.  

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Editor's Note: This story will be updated as events are developing.

A grand jury in Jefferson County, Kentucky has formally charged a former Louisville police officer with with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for his conduct in the shooting that killed Breonna Taylor. According to the Washington Post, the jury said Brett Hankison "wantonly and blindly" shot 10 times into the apartment where Taylor was sleeping. Under the current charges, Hankison faces up to 5 years in prison.

In responding to the charges, Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the grand jury ruled the other officers in the incident -- Sgt. John Mattingly and Det. Myles Cosgrove -- acted accordingly. Cameron urged calm in response to the charge, noting that "peaceful protests are your right as an American citizens," and that many people would be "disappointed" both that the other officers were not charged and some offended that Hankison was charged at all. However, saying acts of "revenge" were not warranted, Cameron said his department's own role is to enforce the law: "It isn't the quest for revenge, it's the quest for truth," adding that he hopes to be part of "the healing process."


Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
via Paul Friedman / Twitter

The best way to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is to share her legacy with the next generation. The feminist icon may have passed away last week at the age of 87, but she lives on in the hearts and minds of multiple generations of Americans, especially women.

In the 1970s, the young Ginsburg "convinced the entire nation, through [her arguments at the] Supreme Court, to... adopt the view of gender equality where equal means the same -- not special accommodations for either gender," Abbe Gluck, a Yale Law School professor and former clerk of Justice Ginsburg, told ABC News.

Keep Reading Show less