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.
- 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.
- 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”).