Gaming Tips for the Non-Gamer Parent

Last time, we talked a bit about the online gaming world and what a parent needs to know in terms of how cyberbullying can happen in a gaming context. Here, we’re going to give you a few specific tips that’ll help you both minimize the risk of your gamer kids getting cyberbullied and respond appropriately when it happens.

Tip 1: The Friend Rule

If your child is younger, it’s a good rule to let them only be online friends with people they know in real life. This will prevent them from being harassed by bullies who target children.

Once your child gets older, it’s pretty normal for them to make friends online.

Tip 2: Recruit a Cool Gaming Aunt or Uncle

If you’re a non-gamer, it’s a good idea have a gaming adult whom your child trusts ‘friend’ them on their gaming platform, just to keep an eye on things.

Tip 3: Review Data Privacy

As with most social networks, gaming platforms have data privacy settings. Make sure they’re as tight as can be. If your child is the target of bullies on another social network or in real life, you don’t want them to be able to access another way to cyberbully your child.

Tip 4: Make Friends With the Parental Controls

The parental controls can help you keep an eye on what kinds of games your child is playing, track or limit their spending, find out who they’re interacting with, and even help you protect their account. Steam, Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and the Nintendo Network all have comprehensive parental controls.

Tip 5: Game in Public

Younger kids should play their games somewhere you can keep an eye on them, like the living room. This will help you pay attention to their emotional cues, listen in on their interactions with others, and maybe figure out just what the heck they’re doing anyway.

Tip 6: Think Hard About a Microphone

Lots of multiplayer games include the option of a microphone. There’s a good reason for this. A microphone beats a keyboard when a gamer wants to tell a teammate “Hey, there’s two guys sneaking in from the left.” However, it’s worth carefully considering whether your child should use a microphone. Some gamers like targeting young kids for harassment and a microphone will give their voice away.

Tip 7: Make a Rule About Trash Talk

Like any competitive event, online gaming comes with trash talk. It’s worth having a conversation about the line between trash talk and harassment. Some ideas: no racism, no sexism, no bigotry, keep trash talk on the game, no picking on someone who can’t defend themselves, and no piling on one person who’s being attacked by everyone else. Teach your child the golden rule of trash talk: if they can’t take it, they shouldn’t dish it.

Tip 8: Cultivate Peers

It’s good for your child to have a peer group online who can support them if they’re bullied. They can put their real life friends and family on their friends list. If they’re playing an MMORPG, such as World of Warcraft, they can seek help from the leaders of the organizations of which they’re a part.

The Bottom Line

Here’s a final tip: it doesn’t hurt to play a few rounds of whatever your child is playing. That’s the best way to get a sense of what they’re interested in and what gaming looks like from their perspective.

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The Non-Gaming Parent’s Guide to Online Gaming

Children and teens spend a lot of time playing video games. But if you’re a non-gaming parent, the games, the technology, and the whole culture surrounding gaming can seem impenetrable. This article won’t get into every single detail, but it will tell you what you need to know about online gaming as it relates to cyberbullying.

Gaming Platforms Are Social Networks

When people think of social networks, they usually think of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. They usually don’t think of Steam, Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, or the Nintendo Network, but these platforms offer a lot of the same functionality as more familiar social networks. Users can have friends lists, publically and privately message each other, trade virtual goods, and more.

What does this mean in terms of cyberbullying? Well, any kind of harassment that can happen on Facebook can happen on a platform like Xbox Live, including racist messages, password theft, dissemination of intimate images, and more.

Single Player vs. Multiplayer

A single player game is a game where it’s just the player versus the game. No one else is involved. You don’t need to worry about your child being cyberbullied within a single-player game. Interrogating your child about cyberbullying and single-player games may result in your child rolling their eyes and calling you lame. Note, though, that while your child plays a single-player game they can still be online and connected to one of the above-mentioned gaming platforms.

Multiplayer games are a different story. A multiplayer game involves the player with or against a lot of other players. In a first-person shooter like Counter-Strike, this means that they can be playing with a dozen or so strangers or people from their friends list for a short match. In a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft, they may be playing with hundreds of people they see regularly in guilds more organized than the average PTA.

When it comes to multiplayer games, your child should know how to block other players who become harassing or otherwise bullying. In general, the larger the social context a game has, the more opportunities there are for your child to be bullied. If your child plays a round of Counter-Strikewith a bully who keeps spamming nasty messages, it’s a simple matter to block that player and move on. However, if there’s a member of your child’s World of Warcraftguild who is harassing and is attempting to doxx your child by working out their real-world identity (to doxx is to broadcast private information about someone), the problem is a bit bigger and requires more of your attention. If you’re at a loss, it’s a good idea to contact an administrator of the game your child is playing or the platform they’re using.

Accounts, Games & In-Game Items Have Real-World Value

It’s hard for non-gamers to imagine, but in-game items like Team Fortress 2’s Bill’s Hat have real value. In this case, it’s worth about $4.30. The economies of video games can be huge. EVE Online’s economy is worth more than $50 million, for example. Valve, the company that owns Steam, once had Yanis Varoufakis as their in-house economist. Varoufakis’ next job was Minister of Finance in Greece. Items are worth what other players are willing to pay, games are worth what the publisher sells them for, and your child’s account—where all this stuff lives—is worth the sum total of all it’s attached games and items.

Now here’s the cyberbullying angle. Pre-internet bullies might beat up a victim for their lunch money. Modern cyberbullies try and scam their victims out of in-game items or even entire accounts.

Remember trading hockey cards or stickers as a kid and getting swindled? That still happens, but now it’s your kid accidentally giving away a rare Team Fortress 2 hat. It’s a good idea to supervise young kids who want to make trades.

The bigger danger, in monetary terms, is a cyberbully attempting to hack or take control of your child’s game account. For example, a Steam account with twenty or so games and a bunch of items can be worth a few hundred dollars. A cyberbully who does this may also chose to impersonate your child or send harassing messages to their friends. It’s very important to keep accounts private, keep them clear of too much personal data, enable two-factor authentication, and adjust parental controls such that you’re kept informed of changes to your child’s account.

The Bottom Line

Gaming can seem overwhelming to a non-gamer. However, if your child is an active gamer and you’d like to protect them from cyberbullying, it’s important to understand a little bit of it. Next time, we’ll give you some specific tips to help you navigate the gaming world.

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