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Our Digital Future

This is the third article in a series that the EFG staff will publish regarding ‘Our Digital Future.” The truth is that the world is rapidly entering a digital age and there is no real way to shield our children from that fact. The best we can do is learn to understand it and share strategies to help them thrive. We hope that you will enjoy these articles and will share them with others. 

Cyberbullying is a significant problem for our kids. It is also a problem that is difficult for many parents to talk about because it is almost entirely new. The technology through which our children are interacting has changed so much that even relatively young parents don’t necessarily understand it. The fact that technology is continuing to evolve at breakaway speed and new social networks and apps rise and fall on an almost daily basis doesn’t help either.

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A lot of the attention is focused on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and likely dozen or more sites and apps that have launched since this post was published. This approach isn’t wrong, but as this is a gaming centric site I thought that it would be prudent to dig deeper into the video games our kids play and help root out the sources of cyberbullying within them.

Common Kinds of Cyberbullying in Games

One of the biggest problems with cyberbullying is that it comes in many forms. It can be even worse in the gaming space. Take a look below for some examples.


Friend lists are a critical part of most consoles at this point. People can amass huge lists of friends as they play (or offline). All of the problems, real or perceived, that come from social networks like Instagram and SnapChat exist here as well.

One other key issue with console gaming friend lists is that you are obviously flagged to other players as “at home” when you are playing a game. This isn’t explicitly stated in the interface, but where else are you going to be playing your HOME console? This does give more information to the people who are on your friend list so it needs to be considered.


When players sign into a multiplayer game they expect everyone to be there for the same goal and to play by the same rules, team arrangements, and objectives. There are, however, people who subvert those things in order to harass and irritate other players. These are called “griefers” and they can be incredibly frustrating for gamers. This is especially true for younger players who might not understand all of the core game concepts to begin with.

This is one issue that can’t really be prevented if your child is going to play with the general public. The reality is that jerks are out there. What we can do, however, is take a few steps to help them.

  1. Make sure you are familiar enough with the games your child is playing to understand if someone is behaving inappropriately.  The reality is that sometimes it can be difficult to discern getting beat down and getting griefed. Understanding the game better can help identify it.
  2. Make sure you know how to exit the game for them. This may sound simple, but one of the easiest ways to avoid griefers is to simply not play with them. Leaving a multiplayer match and then restarting the game will almost guarantee that when your child signs back into the game they won’t be grouped with that player.

Stealing/Destruction of Digital Property

Digital goods have value. Full stop.

This is something that a lot of parents struggle with because we have been conditioned to view things that exist within a digital space as “not being real.” This especially true with respect to games and the things players earn while playing them. There are some items within games that can require months of careful planning in order to acquire. Unfortunately, these types of goods can also be taken away or destroyed by someone with access to them.

Our kids take these things seriously so it is important that we do the same. Some games have ways of recovering items that have been deleted in some circumstances, but many, like Minecraft, don’t.

We need to empathize with our kids and help them try to recover what was lost if possible. But, in this case an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We need to tell our kids that they should not give anyone access to their usernames and passwords for their games.

It Isn’t Their Fault

One of the significant parallels between cyberbullying and traditional bullying is that the victim often blames themselves or received blame from other parties. We have to make sure that or kids know that cyberbullying is not something they can “cause.” It isn’t some form of valid conflict resolution. It is people misusing the internet and the games they play with others to torment people.

Make Sure It Is Reported

I have not run across a web based service or game yet that does not have a system for reporting bad behavior and/or blocking individual users who might be causing a problem. Make sure that your child knows that using those tools is not some bizarre sign of weakness. Games are supposed to be a place to relieve stress. There is no reason they should feel required to put up with nonsense (even if it is from a “friend”).

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This is the second article in a series that the EFG staff will publish regarding ‘Our Digital Future.” The truth is that the world is rapidly entering a digital age and there is no real way to shield our children from that fact. The best we can do is learn to understand it and share strategies to help them thrive. We hope that you will enjoy these articles and will share them with others. 

Toxic behavior is one of the biggest problems on the internet. Casual racism, sexism, harassment, cyberbullying, and other abhorrent behaviors abound. The anonymity of the internet has driven many internet users wild with power. These people attack a person relentlessly because of a slight (real or imagined), or for laughs. Even worse, this behavior is often not met with any consequences. This is a cycle that we, as parents raising a new generation of digital citizens, have a responsibility to break.

One of the best ways to do that is to be responsible and positive digital citizens ourselves and set a good example for our kids.

Be Polite

This might sound obvious. But, a lot of the people who communicate on the internet forget that they are dealing with actual people. When they do so their tendency to be impolite (and even downright nasty) is increased. We, as parents, should do our very best to be polite whenever we can and to encourage our kids to do the same.

Watch it With the Trash Talk

A lot of us are VERY competitive (myself included). We just have to win. And when we do? We talk trash. The issue is that this trash talk combined with the intoxicating anonymity of the internet can lead to inappropriate behavior. It is VERY important that we set an example for our kids and not talk trash inappropriately.

Now, my wife will likely be making a face at me while reading this. I definitely talk my share of junk while playing games. She knows it. I know it. Everyone who plays against me knows it. BUT… I make sure that my kids know that there is a difference between “Holy Moly! Did you see what just happened to you son!” and insulting my opponents’ mom, sexuality, or appearance. We have to remember that our kids emulate our behavior. We need t0 use good judgement in the way we play because we will definitely help shape their attitudes and behavior.

Sportsmanship Isn’t Just for the Soccer Field

We spend a lot of time teaching our kids that winning and losing isn’t everything at their team sports events. (Some might even say that we as a society have gone too far with that… but that is a different topic.) But, it is important to make sure that we work to transfer that attitude regarding winning/losing over to video games. There is something to be said about taking pride in your performance and being competitive. But, there is no reason to get angry when losing at a video game. We have to make sure our kids know that.


These are obviously not the only ways that we can be good role models for our kids as they navigate our digital world. What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!

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This is the first article in a series that the EFG staff will publish regarding ‘Our Digital Future.” The truth is that the world is rapidly entering a digital age and there is no real way to shield our children from that fact. The best we can do is learn to understand it and share strategies to help them thrive. We hope that you will enjoy these articles and will share them with others. 

It is very common for parents to treat electronic media as a wild frontier where nothing can be monitored or controlled.  These parents will either surrender before they even get started and let their children wander free, or (even worse) they might bar the use of electronic media entirely. Neither of these options is necessary and the answer to that is right under our noses.

All of us have a plan for what to do if we are taking our kids to a park, a play, or a big city. We tell them to stay with us (or within our line of sight). We tell them not to talk to strangers. We tell them not to run off somewhere they’ve never been without at least telling us first. We may even tell them what to do if something bad happens. The fact of the matter is that a lot of those same rules apply to their use of digital media as well.

Stay With Us

The jury may be out as to whether the internet counts as a “place” from a legal perspective. But, the analogy stands when we are talking about how to safeguard our kids.

The internet is a seemingly infinite source of places to get into trouble, but we can help limit that by encouraging our kids to stay “with us.” Encouraging them to stay on sites that you have used, or at least understand and recognize, is a great way to keep them safer. It will also help them have a more fulfilling experience on the web.

At the very LEAST you can encourage kids to talk to you about the sites they want to visit. You can go there together and check it out. If it looks… odd.. then you can look around for something else that is safer and suits there needs.

Do they want to play games in their browser?  Send them to Kongregate.com. Do they want to listen to music? Send them to Spotify. Etc.

For example:  One of my wife’s relatives bought herself a laptop some years ago and wanted to play games on it. She didn’t want to play the latest and greatest, but she wanted some diversions for the long hours while her husband watched golf.

To do this she started searching on the web for “free games” and found a lot of them, but all of them required the installation of a toolbar. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if she did it once. But, she did it fifteen separate times. This left her browser all but useless and her hard drive choked with spyware and (likely) viruses. She was miserable because she couldn’t use the web anymore, nor could she play anymore games.

The solution to this? She could have asked me (or just about anyone really) and we could have pointed her to any number of safe websites where you can play browser based games for free without having to give hackers a backdoor to your computer.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

We don’t hesitate for a second to tell our kids not to talk to strangers at the park. But, very few of us take the time to help our kids figure out when it is ok to talk people online.  The internet is, largely, anonymous so come communication is ok. This is especially true on message boards and social media networks like Tumblr and Twitter and online games like World of Warcraft and Xbox Live.

A lot of the different sites on the internet are built to encourage engagement and conversation between users. This means that outright banning communicating with people that we “don’t know” is a bad idea.  First off, it ends up being unreasonable in a lot of cases. It also renders a lot of the best parts of the internet completely useless.

Instead, we can follow a few simple guidelines to help encourage healthy communication online.

  • The anonymity of the internet is a powerful thing. We can hide behind our screen names while talking with people online. This alleviates a lot of the challenges and dangers with talking to “strangers.” They can’t pose much danger to you if they have no idea who you are. We can encourage our kids to maintain that anonymity by choosing their screen names and User IDs. Encourage them to choose IDs that don’t identify who they are or share personal details.
  • Another way to preserve the anonymity of the internet is to make sure that our kids use the privacy settings on their online accounts to limit access from people they don’t know. The settings will vary across different sites and game networks, but they can use common sense to limit access to complete strangers.
  • We can also encourage our kids to not share their information as part of their posts online.  This is important because it sounds easier than it is. People can often look at all of your posts in aggregate on various sites. This can give someone a lot of information about you if they dig deep enough.

These are only a few ways we can help our kids maintain their privacy online and while playing games with others and they really aren’t all that different from the way we protect them from harm when we travel in public places. Keeping that comparison in mind should help make the process of keeping our kids safe a bit easier and less overwhelming.


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