In this post: Toxicity in the form of cyberbullying has been present in the video game community since its onset, but it’s getting worse. Here’s how to identify if your teen or pre-teen is suffering from cyberbullying in gaming and how to address it.
Cyberbullying in gaming has become a huge epidemic that is taking the internet by storm and destroying children’s self-esteem.
Bullies have no shame in the gaming world, and it’s not the case of if you will experience it when online, but when. It can happen to anyone, in any game, at any time by someone you know or someone you don’t.
Cyberbullies derive pleasure from causing others pain and ruining someone’s gaming experience. They can be relentless. Even though the bully is in the wrong, many teens feel too embarrassed or ashamed to speak up to ask for help. After all, it’s just a game, right?
What is cyberbullying in gaming?
First, let’s look at what cyberbullying is. Cyberbullying is using electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. In gaming, cyberbullying can take place between kids that know one another, for example, classmates at school, but it can also take place between strangers.
The problem lies in that many video games are now centered around chats, both built into the game or on gaming apps, such as Discord. This makes it easy to find multiple ways to cyberbully others.
There are many tactics cyberbullies take to threaten or intimidate other players. They may leave intimidating voice chats or texts in the chat function or use sexual insults while gaming. In a world where we often don’t know the user’s life situation on the other end of the screen, this can be extremely dangerous and debilitating.
While it would be helpful if cyberbullying in gaming was as easy to detect as chicken pox, the reality is that cyberbullying takes its toll on different people in different ways. While some children may show an immediate change in their behavior, others may do a better job of hiding it. So, the first step is identifying what cyberbullying looks like.
What does cyberbullying look like?
Cyberbullying in gaming can take on many different forms. It includes hate speech, trash-talking to an extreme level, flaming, harassing, spreading of rumors online, and more. These are some things to look out for to identify if your child is being cyberbullied.
- Look out for a change in behavior. If you notice a sudden change in their gaming habits, this may be a cause for concern. While as a parent, you may be initially relieved that your child is pulling back from gaming, ensure that you take the time to understand why they have made this decision. Teens who are being bullied online may decide to remove themselves from the computer to limit their interactions with the bully, but still carry about the shame or fear.
- If your teen is secretive about their computer use, your ears should perk up. A child who is being cyberbullied or being exposed to inappropriate content will not want you to see what they are doing online. If your child switches out of the game or closes the game chat quickly when they see you coming, take some time to speak to them about what’s happening online.
- Becoming withdrawn and disengaged from activities they used to enjoy is cause for alarm. Children who have been cyberbullied are likely to lose enjoyment from regular activities and begin to keep to themselves more.
- Lack of social interaction and disinterest in going to school or other outings might mean your teen is being cyberbullied. As the cyberbullying continues, their confidence level drops which can result in the desire to stay home all the time.
- Difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares and/or declining grades is a clear sign that something is wrong. Take the time to find out what’s going on so you can get your teen the help they need.
What can you do if your teen or tween is being cyberbullied?
Once you have identified that your child is being cyberbullied via gaming situations, there are ways to help your child to feel safe and empowered. Remind them that together, you will come back from this and that you are there to support them.
Here are a few tips if you think or discover your big kid is being cyberbullied:
- Provide your child with the support they need at home by spending time with your pre-teen or teen. Remind them that they are loved and that they are important to you. Many teens who have been cyberbullied feel like no one cares about them. Give them one-on-one attention without any distractions like the TV or your phone. Connect with them and offer them a safe space with you.
- Show your child empathy. Don’t diminish their feelings, listen with an open ear. Validate their feelings and let them know that you are there for them. Encourage your teen to talk about what happened and to share how it made them feel.
- Encourage new and positive social interactions. Lead by example and show your child what positive relationships look like, and then help them to build more of their own. Empower your child to reach out to someone new or invite families with teens the same age to help new positive social relationships flourish.
- While you want to be everything to your child, it’s ok to reach out for help. If your child is struggling, reach out to a professional who can get a clearer picture of what happened. Also, consider using a mindfulness app or another gift to help combat their stress and anxiety
- While you don’t want to rehash what happened repeatedly, it is important to document the cyberbullying. Screenshot messages and usernames before deleting them. You may need this as evidence if the situation gets worse. Then, it is important to block the person who is cyberbullying your teen, and in extreme cases, report them to the authorities.
How to best support your big kid who loves gaming
Remember to be your child’s partner in this. Do not do anything that your child doesn’t want you to do. Keep the lines of communication open with your child so that you can have a trusting dialogue about what has happened.
Every situation is different. Sometimes, it helps to speak in person if you know who is doing the cyberbullying. Other times, it can make things much worse.
Together with your teen/tween, make a decision that they feel comfortable with. Do not go against their wishes. Remember, this is a learning experience. You want to teach your child how to handle a challenging issue like this, not solve it for them.
Lastly, make sure that you don’t punish your child for something that was out of their control. Restricting or banning your child from using the internet or gaming will result in feelings of distrust between you and them. Work with your child instead of against them.
Not sure how to keep your child safe while gaming or worried that they won’t be honest with you? Try a monitoring software that alerts you of any cyberbullying or threats your child may come in contact with without invading their privacy. ProtectMe monitors your child’s in-game voice and text communication to alert you of any threats they encounter. Use ProtectMe’s personalized recommendations to help you deal with the threat. Try ProtectMe for free for the first 30 days.
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
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