There’s a reason why children love gaming so much: it’s fun! It’s about meeting new communities, discovering new worlds, and even creating their own virtual worlds or gaming servers. Play is vital for children’s health and wellbeing, but it’s okay to have concerns, too. How do you know who your child is speaking to? And how do you protect them from bullying? Here are some suggestions to help you navigate together.
Be open and curious
Show an interest in the games your child likes to play. Encourage them to talk to you if they see anything strange, or something that upsets them. Perhaps you could be curious about how their newest game works, or what they love most about the game they play most often. Try to genuinely see things from their point of view, and let them know that they can come to you to discuss anything they’re unsure about.
Notice any changes
If your child appears moody or anxious after gaming, this may suggest they are being cyberbullied or have experienced or seen something that has upset them. Encourage them to open up.
Learn key words
Sometimes it can feel like there’s a whole other language in the gaming world. Here are some words that relate to gaming and bullying.
An insult. Used towards a person who is new to an online community and whose online participation and interactions display a lack of skill.
An insult. Sweats constantly try to excel past their expectations, when in reality they sadly fall short. When failing to achieve their goals, they get to the point that they're sweaty and angry.
This means searching for and publishing private or identifying information about a particular individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent.
This is when someone deliberately acts in a way to elicit either an angry or emotional response from the person who they're interacting with. This is often used between two people when one wants to start an argument and uses baiting in order to do so.
Griefing is the act of irritating and angering people in video games through the use of destruction. Popularised in Minecraft by teams, griefing has become a serious problem for server administrators who wish to foster building and protect builders.
Roasting is when you criticise someone harshly. When you bring up their flaws and their shortcomings, you "roast" someone. So getting roasted means being criticised harshly by someone.
Ghosting is basically rejection, only without the finality. It is when someone stops answering your texts or calls without explanation. This often happens out of nowhere. It can leave you feeling confused, hurt, and paranoid.
Remember, it can be helpful to use the acronym STOP to identify a bullying situation (Several Times On Purpose). If you find that this is what is happening, it may be that your child is being bullied.
Support your child to deal with cyberbullying
If your child is being bullied, there are a few things you can do:
Help your child to take some time out and not respond to the bullying. Do something fun together instead, and remind them that they are loved
Most networks have options for reporting harmful content. If you are struggling to see how to report content or have reported content and are not happy with the action taken, then you can visit Report Harmful Content for more support. You may also have other options through the platform such as muting or hiding content, or blocking the perpetrator.
If the bullying is coming from someone at the same school, you can report it to the school. The school has a responsibility to protect students from bullying, even if it happens offsite, online or over the phone. Follow our guidelines on reporting to the school, and be sure to take evidence of cyberbullying with you.
You could also consider reporting to the police. Cyberbullying is not a specific criminal offence in the UK. However, incidents which are considered as harassment, threats or menacing communication may be an offence. For more information about whether the police can help, contact your local station.
If they’ve done something wrong, help them put it right
If your child tells you they’ve hurt someone, help them to say sorry. It can be helpful for them to take a deep breath and delete anything unkind if they can. Reassure them that we can all make mistakes but it doesn’t mean we’re bad people. The best thing to do is to try to make amends.
Be alert to the possibility of sexual abuse or grooming
If you have concerns about inappropriate communications that your child has received, you should report this on the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre website.
It can be worrying supporting your child, so make sure to take care of yourself, too! If you would benefit from talking the situation through with someone, please contact our Parent Advice Line.
We also have a Guide to Bullying to help children and young people to deal with bullying both online and face to face.