Online games have become widely used by children of all ages. While children have been using computer games ever since desktop computers became a common item found in homes and schools, the use of the Internet for gaming has increased in recent years. With all the websites that offer the opportunity to play with people from around the world, every child can find something that appeals to their interests. Every time your child is exposed to other children online, though, the risk of Bullying in Online Games increases as well.
According to Beat Bullying, as many as 21 percent of children between the ages of eight and 11 have been cyberbullied, with about 27 percent of those experiencing it while playing online games.
Types of Bullying in Online Games
When you think of online gaming, you likely think of playing games through the Internet. While this is often the case, this isn’t the only way children can play with others online. Not only do you have websites dedicated to gaming and social media that integrates games directly into the sites, many of the gaming consoles, including Playstation, Xbox 360 and Wii U, have the option to join others through an Internet connection. This creates many new opportunities for children to bully others. The more often your child plays these games, the more likely they are to either become the victim of cyberbullying or contribute to the act against other children.
Gaming Features and Bullying Games
Whether or not bullying can take place in a game depends greatly upon the features that are available in the games. For instance, if your child plays a game that only allows gaming interactions and no ability to chat, the chances of cyberbullying are much less than if your child participates in a game where chatting, private messages and other similar features are available. When your child is able to interact with other children, the risks of bullying behaviour increase greatly. This is why it is so important to teach your children how to interact with others online and encourage them to report any negative behaviour they witness, whether it happens to them or they see it happen to someone else.
Online Role-Playing Bullying Games
Many of the gaming options children will find online are role-playing games that encourage children to take on a new persona online. These types of gaming often include violence and other negative behaviours as part of the game and typically attract children as young as 12 years old and sometimes much younger. When children play these games, they often become immersed in the behaviour of the game and may engage in cyberbullying without even realizing it. These games are also highly addictive, resulting in more opportunities to bully or become the victim of online bullies.
Griefers and Bullying in Online Games
“Griefers” is the term given to those who make use of online games as a way to target children and sometimes even adults while they are taking part in online gaming. These players will purposely seek out other gamers and target them in the game. Not only will they attack these players as part of the game, but they will also engage in aggressive behaviour outside the parameters of the game, including sending threatening or harassing messages. Some of these griefers will use the excuse of simply “playing the game,” while really using the game as a way to cyberbully other players. The goal of these griefers is to make the gaming experience miserable for the other gamers, ruining the hard work they have put into the game.
One of the biggest concerns with online gaming is the ability to talk to other people online. When used correctly, this is a great way to learn about other people and cultures and enjoy playing with people from other places around the world. Unfortunately, there are always those who don’t use these methods correctly. This leads to a problem with cyberbullying. Some children seem to think it is okay to send harassing messages to others, whether under the guise of playing the game or simply because they are anonymous and feel safer doing so. These harassing messages can have much the same effect as the same behaviour in person.
Ganging Up and Bullying Games
Many bullies get their power by teaming up with others against one particular target. In the online gaming world, this becomes easy to do. The group of bullies can quickly and easily plan an attack through the use of private messages, choosing a victim that seems to be weak in the game or somehow stands out from the others in the game. Harassing messages aren’t the only way this group can impact the victim. Because many games involve interaction with the other players as characters, the bullies can easily participate in bullying behaviour that closely mimics the physical bullying that can take place. This either drives the victim from the game or causes him to use aggressive behaviour on other players, furthering the cycle.
While not as widely known, some online bullies can steal a child’s gaming password and hack into their account. and cause problems for the owner of the account. The hacker can send negative messages to people on the victim’s friends list, virtually isolating the owner of the account from the other players with whom they have been playing. In addition, the hacker can lock the owner out of his account by changing the password and other details, effectively pushing the victim out of his game altogether. This behaviour is similar to bullying that excludes a child from a group in school or another situation.
Verbal Abuse and Bullying in Online Games
Harassing messages aren’t the only way cyberbullies can have an impact on other children. Some online gamers simply use offensive language, including unacceptable slurs, swearing and degrading terms to belittle other players during gameplay. Many gaming sites take steps to filter out these types of verbal abuse, but not all websites have these safeguards in place, especially when the game isn’t intended for children to play. This type of language can quickly lead to bullying behaviour.
Viruses are a real risk when it comes to playing games online. Because chat boxes are prevalent in these situations, bullies and other people who are looking to cause trouble online can post links and include codes that can lead to an infection on other users’ computers. While some of these links and codes are posted where anyone can click on them, some online bullies will target a specific player in the game and send this information privately in an attempt to disable or damage that person’s computer. This is why it is so important for children to learn to use caution any time they are working online.
What Can Parents Do?
Because cyberbullying is so prevalent in today’s society, especially in terms of online gaming, it is important for parents to do whatever it takes to keep their children safe. There are certain steps every parent should take if their child partakes in online games to ensure their safety and wellbeing online, as well as discourage participation in the behaviour themselves. These steps include:
- Knowing where your child is playing online
- Browsing through the games yourself so you know the nature of the game and what features it offers
- Talking to your child about cyberbullying and what he can do about it
- Encouraging your child to report any negative behaviour to you and site administrators
- Requiring his log-in names and passwords to monitor his use
- Showing your child examples of bullying behaviour
- Restricting your child’s access to games known for these issues
As parents, it is critical to protect your child from the dangers of the world. Because cyberbullying is so common in today’s society, parents need to learn as much as they can about the issue and how to protect their children. Online games are a great way for children to interact with others and learn about the proper use of the Internet. When parents become involved and work with their children to use these games properly, the fun can continue for everyone and the battle against bullying in online games can be fought to reduce instances of negative behaviour.
Online bullying in games isn’t “kids being kids” online bullying in online games is a dangerous indication of a nation not being aware of just how dangerous and “un-fun” online games could be. Cyberbullying games aren’t a phenomenon and aren’t going away by stopping our kids from those cyberbullying games.