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What any parent should know about cyber-bullying in video games

Video games were a lot simpler when you were a kid. Back then, the only other person involved in your game of Super Mario Bros. was the person sitting next to you on the couch. Nowadays, the gaming experience has moved online, making it much more interactive than before. You can play with friends and strangers around the globe.

This advancement has its benefits. Children can meet and socialize with other players, and they can work together to come up with creative ways of strategizing and problem solving. However, as with anywhere else on the internet, cyber-bullying--using electronic communication to threaten, harass or harm someone--is a problem in the online gaming community.

Here are three things to be aware of in online multiplayer games:

Messaging features

If the game your child is playing has chat or private message features, then the risk of bullying behavior is much higher. Your child's ability talk to other gamers online creates a risk of being exposed to--or encouraged to participate in--harassing or threatening messages, offensive slurs and other degrading communication.

Griefers

The rise of online multi-player games has also seen the advent "griefers"--an aggressive type of cyber-bully who harasses other players by deliberately attacking them throughout the game. This type of experience can be humiliating and belittling for victims.

Role-playing games

Some of the most popular online games are role-playing games, which encourage players to create an avatar. Under the anonymity of this alter ego, players may feel more at liberty to engage in harassing and bullying behavior with other players.

What can you do?

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends the following parental interventions to help prevent cyber-bullying:

  • Play the video game yourself to understand what it exposes your child to and how it might affect them.
  • Check in with your child from time to time to see who is playing the game with them.
  • Talk to your child about safe online behavior. Teach your child not to participate in others' bullying behavior, and show them how to report such behavior if they observe it. Also, make sure they understand to keep personal information private.

Cyber-bullying is a growing concern in the online gaming community. However, creating a smart approach to your child's gaming can still give them a positive experience.

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