Have you ever been harassed while playing a video game with other people? Many gamers who play on live networks experience this frequently – with a long list of users in the “blocked” section. Sometimes, the harassment becomes so annoying that it warrants a report, and that’s usually the end of that. However, with video games being a popular pastime for people of all ages, children and teenagers are beginning to experience the brunt of online harassment – and from a source, you may not typically consider.
Cyber-bullying for many kids and teens isn’t the same as what many gamers deal with, such as having a random user (often a sore loser) spamming the chat with swear words and questionable suggestions. In schools, it’s now normal to swap Gamertags and online IDs, forming teams and gaming times after homework. Unfortunately, bullying continues to be a big problem in elementary, middle and high school. Now, the two worlds are combining, so children and teens who are bullied in school are also being bullied by the same people online, at home, after school. Not cool.
A Reddit user (Forensicunit) recently created a post featuring this tricky subject. He discussed how the bullying his child is experiencing in school is out of control, as it’s now affecting his everyday life at home as well – via video games:
My kid is getting bullied at school, which includes them trying to get his XBOX Live account banned.
He continued to explain:
I’m already dealing with some of the problems with the school. My son is very worried [about] being labelled as a snitch. He’s tried to handle most of it on his own and shrugged a lot of it off. Parenting, in general, is hard because you never really know the best way to handle things. I just thought that this aspect of it could be stopped by Microsoft or XBOX so it’s one less thing for me to worry about.
Xbox LIVE does allow you to report harassment or abuse from other players (view more details here). Abuse is considered a violation of the Xbox LIVE Code of Conduct, which includes these rules relevant to the above story:
- Don’t engage in illegal activity. For example, don’t:
- Threaten to physically hurt others
- Spread lies about someone
- Encourage violence against people or animals
- Scream at, intimidate or bully others
- Violate another person’s privacy
- Interfere with another’s ability to access their network or device
- Interfere with Xbox Live
(View full list of detailed rules here.)
Clearly, if there are multiple bullies using Xbox games to continually find and harass someone, they are breaking multiple rules. However, the line becomes blurry when you attempt to prove the allegations. In the case of the above-mentioned Reddit user, these bullies are cleverly attempting to make it seem as though the victim is the one at fault by repeatedly reporting his account. This is ultimately unfair and very upsetting, as the victim’s free-time – which should be fun and relaxing – is being ruined, seemingly permanently if the victim feels as if it’s possible to have his or her account truly banned by enough reports. Additionally, of course, as a child in school, you never want to seem like a “snitch” – but many children and teens are suffering from bullying alone because they are afraid to tell someone in case it makes the bullying worse.
Here are a few suggestions Reddit commenters had for the OP (user: Forensicunit) experiencing this tough bullying situation:
Some users debated whether or not someone can truly be suspended or banned by an influx of false reporting by other gamers.
One user suggested speaking to the parents of the bullies directly – which is definitely needed in situations where bullies are consistently harassing outside of school and online. Unfortunately, Forensicunit’s response is a valid concern, as some parents may believe their child over someone else’s child.
Changing the Gamertag will help the victim hide from bullies; however, it’s understandable to be hesitant about doing so, as there is a charge to change your Gamertag – which doesn’t seem fair when it’s someone else’s fault. Ultimately, this is still good advice.
Many users brought up the point that law enforcement does help handle severe cases of bullying as well. As mentioned by themoviehero:
You block them on Xbox, they’ll text. You block their number, they’ll keep doing it in real life… Get the local authorities involved.
Replies discussing whether or not the police should interfere created a large debate on whether it’s necessary – but the truth is, contacting the non-emergency line at your local law enforcement office can assist you if the situation spirals out of control.
What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
All-in-all, regarding the bullying “in real life,” that is something that must be handled by the parents of both children, as well as by teachers or other surrounding adults. However, there is a multitude of ways you can handle online bullying – as everything leaves a trace. If you find your child or yourself in a situation like the Reddit story above, there are steps you can take to put an end to any harassment you may be getting from other gamers online.
1. The first and most important thing you need to understand is that if you haven’t done anything wrong online, then your account won’t be banned.
Moderators receive reports and must review them before suspending (and especially banning) someone. Otherwise, anyone you didn’t like or lost against could be removed if you simply falsely reported them. If you aren’t breaking the rules, you can’t be banned. Bullies will say anything to scare you, but they don’t hold the power to ban your account.
2. Despite possibly feeling otherwise, you can take control of the situation by not allowing it to escalate to these lengths of harassment.
In most cases, you can stop any online bullying by reporting his or her account, whether it’s an Xbox Live or PSN account. Although it may seem frustrating, it can give you peace of mind to block anyone who harasses you – even if you wish to go as far as changing your Gamertag or online ID. This will make it harder for bullies to find you. At the end of the day, it’s most important that you feel happy and content. Simply pretending the situation doesn’t exist and allowing the bullies to harass you in fear of being “uncool” only gives the bullies what they want. If you’re on Xbox Live, you can check out the different ways to block and/or report any players harassing you on the Xbox Live support website at https://goo.gl/ZvQzHX. For PS4 gamers who need information on how to block or report abuse, head to https://goo.gl/QbAV3U.
3. If you’re being bullied online by another student at your school, then you need to inform your parents.
Your parents can then report the student to the school. The parents of the bully also need to be informed of the situation, that way they can help put an end to their child’s behaviour. If the school or the bully’s parents refuse to address the problem, then you and your parents need to contact the authorities. The police will get in contact with the school and parents and force them to confront the issue. This does not mean to call “911” every time you are dealing with a problem with your peers. However, a call to the non-emergency line of your local authorities is absolutely warranted if you’re being consistently harassed. Cyber-bullying and in-person bullying are serious and can lead to dangerous situations. You need to be persistent in defending yourself until the problem is solved.
Addressing and exposing the situation is the best way to prevent and cease online bullying. Most children who are bullied feel scared and usually are hesitant to tell an adult that they’re being bullied. However, ignoring a problem will never make it go away. If you want the bullying to end, then you need to tell someone because if you don’t, the bullying will just continue and often will become worse.
4. There are also various resources you can reach out to which help victims of bullying.
Most often, bullies don’t act alone – and one victim isn’t the only victim. By speaking up and helping others (as well as yourself), you can truly make a difference. At the beginning of this article, OP Forensicunit stated that his son felt as if he’d be a “snitch” if he told on the bullies – but sometimes, being a “snitch” can put an end to a bad situation for many affected people. There are also many resources to assist you if you don’t know where to start. For example, you can make an anonymous report on CyberBullyHotline.com. If you or your parents need info or tips on how to prevent bullying, visit http://www.pacer.org/bullying/. (See the full list at the bottom of this article.)
5. You should also familiarize yourself with your state’s laws on harassment.
Although it seems easy to scoff at cyber-bullying (using excuses such as “just report them,” “just ignore it,” “it’s not real if it’s online,” etc), there are cases where a situation becomes out of control and needs outside assistance. Many cases of bullying are due to a personal hatred toward someone, which wears on the victim. Online bullying does affect mental health – especially when in connection with bullying at school as well. A student can feel as if there is no escape from the harassment – which leads to dangerous situations. Each state has different laws and policies concerning harassment, and you can read up on your state’s policies at https://goo.gl/XaVnac. While there aren’t any federal laws against bullying, there are laws in place to protect people from any kind of harassment that stems from discrimination. If it can be determined that a specific case of bullying is based on race, sex, colour, national origin, disability, or religion, then the child’s school would have a legal obligation to address the situation and resolve it.
These 5 tips can apply to most situations – depending on the level of severity. Remember, cyber-bullying via video games isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s understandable to be concerned when a person is (or multiple people are) harassing you. Video games are supposed to be a source of community – where individuals of all ages can join an exciting world and work together to meet a goal or simply to just blow off steam after a long day.
Many of us gamers have experienced some form of harassment in a video game – which, to be honest, pretty much sucks no matter what because who wants to deal with someone being rude when you’re trying to have fun? Most people can simply mute or block an unwanted player. However, each day there are new stories and Reddit posts about children and teens who are experiencing real-life bullying that transitions into cyber-bullying as well. That’s why it’s essential to know how to report a player, how to change your Gamertag and who to talk to when you need help. In extreme cases, it’s also important to understand your state laws for severe online bullying. As stressed throughout this article, the person who is breaking the rules is ultimately going to be the person who is banned (i.e. not you!).
There will always be negative people who attempt to bring others down, but it’s important to know your worth and understand that you don’t have to deal with bullying – online or offline.
Summary of Online Hotlines, Resources & Other Helpful Links
Xbox Live Code of Conduct – Click here
PSN Code of Conduct – Click here
How to mute/block/report (Xbox) – Click here
How to mute/block/report (PS4) – Click here
Tips to prevent bullying – Click here
Make an anonymous report – Click here
Suicide prevention chat (online) – Click here
View US state laws – Click here
View Canadian laws – Click here
Do you have another helpful resource to help combat cyber-bullying in video games? Do you want to share your story? Tell us in the comments below.