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The saying goes, “kids will be kids.” But what does the life of a modern kid in American, European, and Asian countries share?
Bullying – the physical, school-ground kind – has actually been classified as a public health issue. It wasn’t until the mid-90s where instances of cyber-bullying garnered enough attention to warrant a subset classification, primarily because the effects of cyber-bullying were either identical or more severe than physical bullying. These include emotional stress, self-harm, and in rare cases, murder or suicide.
Despite the fact that socially conscious parents and politicians have been pushing for anti-bullying laws, it appears as though the anonymity that the Internet provides is giving bullies another outlet to harass their prey. It’s common for bullies to flock to cyberspace and online video games to harass others. It’s convenient for them. The prevalence is so great that the sheer amount of public backlash is reason enough to assume every gamer has experienced cyber-bullying at least once in their life.
There are many different types of cyber-bullying specific to video games, which include:
In many online games, gamers will take on personas as they conquer their enemies and get stronger. As their characters get more violent and more advanced, many of these gamers might take on some of the less appealing characteristics of these personas, bullying their opponents without even realizing it. Because these kinds of games are very addicting, bullies and those who are bullied are likely to keep signing on in the face of degrading social situations.
Some kids think it’s okay to send harassing messages to their opponents in the online gaming world. After all, it’s not real life – it’s just a game. “You’re protected by anonymity.” Even if kids are nice in “real life,” the anonymity that is provided on online gaming platforms emboldens them to be able to act disgustingly. These bullies don’t understand that oftentimes, the harassing messages sent through cyberspace can have the same kind of impact on them as hurtful comments given in real life.
With their powers combined, bullies can more easily target their prey. A coordinated bullying attack can result in an onslaught of threatening and harassing messages being sent to the kid who gets bullied. Victims will either stop playing the game altogether or they will deflect the harassment and begin bullying other gamers on their own.
Believe it or not, there are some people who play online video games for the sheer “satisfaction” of harassing other players. These bullies might even be sick adults who are seeking to target younger insecure kids. On top of harassing their targets inside the game, many of these griefers will also figure out how to harass them outside of the game – through various forms of manipulation (such as acquiring cell phone numbers) – and sending them threatening text messages. The goal of these individuals is to make the gaming experience as awful for their targets as possible.
Some bullies will spend their time trying to figure out their target’s password or hack into that person’s account. Once inside, these bullies can wreak havoc by sending a slew of messages that will appear to be sent from the victim when in fact they are not. Hackers can subsequently change the password of the account, meaning the victim is no longer able to access it, excluding that person from being able to interact with his or her peers.
Hackers can also choose to infect their target’s gaming systems of computers with viruses. Many online gaming platforms and social networks, for example, have chat boxes built into them. As such, nefarious individuals can paste links to viruses, malware and spyware in them. Unsuspecting individuals could click on the disguised links, and next thing they know, their computers could be working improperly.
Why do bullies, bully?
43% of teens aged 13-17 have reported an experience where they were cyber-bullied. But for video game players, that percentage could be significantly higher. In fact, 63% of female gamers have been sexually harassed (in digital environments), such as being asked to perform “virtual sex behaviors” in return for in-game currencies.
Interestingly, the primary reasons for cyberbullying are most likely false ideations of “someone deserving it.” Maybe a victim published their honest thoughts in a forum that criticized a “guild” or the community of a game. Just look at the MOBA communities, specifically League of Legends and Dota. They’re extremely volatile – that’s an undeniable fact. If you run a Google search about either community, you’ll find thousands upon thousands of rants, outcries, and criticisms.
It seems the only practical “solution” to cyber-bullying in video-game context is education and enforcement from both parents and developers. Teens are granted unrestricted social abilities with the mask of anonymity, but schools and parents hardly acknowledge this as a power – let alone something that can easily be abused and hurt kids (or their own).