How to Protect Your Child from Cyberbullying While Gaming
Chances are good that your child is spending a significant amount of time online and playing internet-connected games. According to a Pew Research Center survey of 13- to 17-year-olds, nearly 84 percent had access to video games.
These days, many gaming devices allow children to play online, connecting with “friends” in the game during chats and in direct messages. So how do you keep your child safe from potential online bullying or harassment while gaming?
1. Monitor your child’s use of technology for online bullying
While websites and apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat may be on your radar for monitoring, are you also watching out for in-game messaging on your child’s favorite gaming systems and apps? As a parent, you can go into the game’s privacy settings to restrict your child’s ability to add friends and more.
Minecraft, the popular building and adventure game, allows parents to purchase a subscription allowing only real friends and family to join your child online to play the game.
2. Watch out for streaming services and bullying
It’s hard to keep up with the latest platforms coming out that allow our children to connect when we think they’re doing their homework. Have you heard of Twitch or Mixer? These platforms allow gamers to livestream their game play and visitors to watch. In addition to watching the game or creating an account to stream his or her own game, your child can hear commentary from other players he or she follows and read and participate in live chats. These interactive features make this platform more social than just watching recordings of video games on YouTube, for example. While these platforms can be awesome for kids by allowing them to connect over shared interests, they can also open new avenues for bullying. Content isn’t just accessible via a website or app; it can also be streamed right onto your TV from connected gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation. Experts recommend closely watching your child for signs of bullying, including loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from friends and family, and these other signs of bullying.
3. Prevent harassment of girls in gaming
While bullying can happen to anyone, girls face an especially harsh form of online harassment because of their gender. They can encounter stereotypes that girls aren’t even into video games; when in reality, according to Pew Research, 83 percent of girls play video games.* And bullying against girls tends to be gendered, targeting them with sexually explicit language that is often demeaning and violent. How can girls keep themselves safe while enjoying online games? Experts recommend turning off game microphones and not providing any gender cues, including in avatars.
4. Use software to block inappropriate content
There are holistic approaches to shutting down objectionable content. Devices such as the Net Nanny, a parental control software, monitor and block inappropriate web traffic and apps from specific devices. This can help to keep your child safe by keeping him or her away from situations where bullying could be a problem. These software programs also allow parents to set screen-time limits so children can’t sneak off and use devices outside of their allowed times.
5. Talk with your child about bullying
No parent wants their child to be a bully or to be targeted for bullying. StopBullying.gov is a resource for ideas on how to talk with children and teens about this topic. In particular, this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website educates people on how to become upstanders. An upstander is someone who stands up to a bully, shutting down the harassment and offering support and friendship to the bullied person.
In general, the online gaming world can be a fun and social place for people who share similar interests to form communities. But there are some pitfalls, especially for children and teens who are spending an increasing amount of their social lives online. Until your child reaches a level of maturity where you can trust him or her online, employing the strategies above could help to keep online time a little safer.