While being pushed around, beat up, isolated or verbally abused on the playground are more obvious acts of bullying, technology has given bullies a whole new means for terrorizing others — sometimes even anonymously.
While online games like Minecraft are often enjoyed without issue, find out how the ability to interact with other players your child may not know could leave him or her a victim of cyberbullying on Minecraft and other multiplayer games.
How kids are cyberbullied on multiplayer games
When it comes to multiplayer games, cyberbullying can take many forms — most commonly referred to as griefing. According to Wikipedia, “A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game, using aspects of the game in unintended ways… including cursing, cheating, stealing and unreasonable killing.” Other common forms of online bullying can include kicking other players off the server and intentionally trying to anger or upset other players for their own enjoyment — also known as trolling — during multiplayer games.
“In our case, my son had a server and spent months building things — castles, bridges, underwater cities and buildings in the sky,” explains Mark Cheverton, author of Invasion of the Overworld: A Minecraft Novel. “Some other player was able to get the IP address to my son’s server and when the griefers came onto his server they used their software hacks to get past the security and proceeded to destroy everything on his server. They then posted the video on their YouTube channel which made it even worse.” But, how much harm does this form of virtual bullying really do to kids?
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Signs that your child is experiencing cyberbullying
Before you dismiss cyberbullying as harmless fun, think of how vicious rumors and name calling on the school yard emotionally destroy kids who are bullied. Cyberbullying can have the same effect on your online gamer. And, despite our best efforts to educate kids about bullying, kids who are being bullied oftentimes won’t reach out for help.
StopBullying.gov and CyberBullying.us warns that although not all children exhibit warning signs when being bullied — either in real life or online — these red flags could suggest your child is having a hard time at school or online.
- Frequent ailments such as tummy aches, headaches or faking illness
- Sudden loss of interest in computer
- Changes in eating habits
- High anxiety when receiving text message, instant messages or email
- Frequent nightmares or difficulty sleeping
- Worsening grades
- Loss of interest in school, usual friends or family members
- Decreased self-esteem
- Seems frustrated or depressed after using computer or other gadget
- Self-destructive behaviors
How to help kids handle cyberbullying when gaming
While you cannot stop griefing, trolling and other cyberbullying from happening, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your child does not fall victim to long-term bullying on multiplayer games.
- Set up a whitelist on your multiplayer game server to keep people out who aren’t “on the list.”
- Report players who are harassing or assaulting your child to the game developers which are more commonly implementing warnings, suspensions and game bans for players practicing unfavorable behavior.
- Stay on creative mode on a secure server.
- When there are other players on your child’s game, close it down to kick the other players off before cyberbullying or too much damage or occurs.
- Some servers are known for high incidences of cyberbullying, like griefing, so search the internet to learn which servers to avoid. “I know because of the anonymity that the internet creates, we won’t be able to change the behavior of the bullies, so I tell my son to remove himself from the stressful situation,” shares Cheverton.
- Engage in parental supervision — there is nothing more effective than playing the game with your child to guide him or her through these situations, whether online or in the real world. “The most effective thing that I’ve done to learn what is happening with the game is to sit next to my son and watch,” explains Cheverton. “I ask him to teach me how to do something in Minecraft. By sitting next to him, I’m able to see what is going on, and it creates teachable moments when we can discuss what other players are doing and whether their behaviors are appropriate or not.”
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While you cannot shelter your children from bullying, either online or at school, multiplayer games can also teach kids how to cope, even when it comes to cyberbullying on Minecraft. “It’s important to draw some attention to cyberbullying in online computer games, but it’s also important to remember that most of the kids that are playing these games are good kids that just want to have fun,” says Cheverton. “I’ve found that online games are a great way for my son to interact with other kids and learn about cooperative play in Minecraft. He has been able to recognize when a kid is being inappropriate and call them out on it or move to a new server.” Whether you suspect your child is being bullied at school or is a victim of online bullying, take the time to investigate any red flags your youngster may be exhibiting, even if they don’t have the courage to reach out for help themselves.