Playing videogames is an extremely popular activity among teens, with approximately 72% of teens gaming online. Some video games – console, phone, or computer-based – allow the gamer to play online with other gamers (both friends and random players). While gaming can have positive benefits like making new friends, socializing, and learning problem solving skills, it is also a place for cyberbullying to take place.
Players can remain unknown and use avatars, allowing them to create a fictional version of themselves. While this is part of the fun of gaming, it also allows users to harass, bully, and gang up on other players, sending or posting negative or hurtful messages and using the game as a tool of harassment. If someone is not performing well in the game, other gamers (both children and adults) may curse or make negative remarks, or they might exclude the person from playing altogether.
Because players are anonymous, they may not be held accountable for their behavior, and their harassment can cause some players to leave games. Some anonymous players use the game as a means to harass strangers or to get their personal information, like user names and passwords.
Parents may not be aware of the apps that their children use regularly or may not be aware of the risks involved in using them. There are many ways that cyberbullying can be hidden in apps and sites, such as texts, videos, and web calls that disappear or do not appear on the device’s call or text message logs.
Many apps also make it easy for users to access, view or participate in adult or harmful content. Privacy and location settings may make them more vulnerable to stalking, cyberbullying, exposure to adult content, or other dangers.
There are things adults can do to prevent cyberbullying of children who are gaming:
Play the game or observe when the gaming happens to understand how it works and what a child is exposed to in the game.
Check in periodically with your child about who is online, playing the game with them.
Teach your children about safe online behavior, including not clicking on links from strangers, not sharing personal information, not participating in bullying behavior of other players, and what to do if they observe or experience bullying.
Establish rules about how much time a child can spend playing video games.