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Top Tips

Expert advice on how to play smart.

Strategies for dealing with (cyber)bullying in social games

Caitlin Wood

As our lives move further and further online, through new and exciting ways to connect with each other and share experiences, so too has the darker side of human behaviour, including (cyber)bullying. Caitlin Wood, from PROJECT ROCKIT, a youth-driven movement against bullying, shares some hot tips on how you can be part of the solution in combating any griefers, haters and trolls you might occasionally come across while playing social games.

When you hear the word ‘gamer’, what do you picture? A teenage boy sitting in a dark room, curtains drawn with booming sound effects and visuals to rival any action film? Or, do you picture an 84-year-old woman who not only struggles to walk from old age but also barely hears her own name? The reality is that today both of these pictures are accurate, well in my life at least; believe it or not, both my brother and my grandma are gamers. Over the last decade, the world of online games has expanded into new territories and so too has the word ‘gamer’. In fact, you probably know more gamers than you realise, thanks in part to the expansion, popularity and diversity of online social games. Think FarmVille, Minecraft, Candy Crush, or Words with Friends and you’re on the right track.

Online social games connect users through an online browser, mobile device or social network site. The social element typically gives users the opportunity to play with or against friends, participate in chat rooms or share and compare progress on leadership boards. This means that social games can be incredible relationship-building tools, especially for parents and their children, and recent studies have even shown links between social games and increased creativity and optimism. However, alongside all this good stuff, there are also some gamers who use the social features in games in a way that causes others distress. At PROJECT ROCKIT we develop strategies for tackling nasty stuff in an otherwise incredible digital world; here are out tips for dealing with unpleasant behaviour in social games.

PROBLEM: ‘the griefer or the hater’

A person who harasses or deliberately provokes other players in an attempt to spoil their enjoyment. Can include using offensive language, stealing or actions deemed unreasonable in the world of the game.

HOT TIP: Don’t add randoms

It’s never a good idea to add someone to your friends list that you don’t know personally or join in playing with totally random strangers. A griefer might contact you and say anything in an attempt to be added to your account and then purposely ruin any progress you’ve made. Stick with your friends, after all they are your true allies and will have your back when it really matters.

HOT TIP: Screenshot abuse

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to screenshot anything you see online that you disagree with. Understandably, you might  want to make this nasty stuff disappear immediately. However it’s important to have a copy of the evidence to assist you when reporting the gamer or showing a friend or family member. If you are not sure how to take a screenshot of an app on your device, do a web search for “screenshot + your device, eg iPhone” and there are plenty of sites that you give you step by step instructions for how to do this.

HOT TIP: Block and report

If somebody is giving you a hard time, block the player or add them to your ignore list if you are playing through a social network, for example, Facebook, which will ensure they won’t be able to contact you via chat or private message. Then you can anonymously report the gamer to the social network by their username. Reporting any abusive players, griefers or abusive content to the social network administrators will guarantee they are dealt with by the network’s specific rules and community standards.

HOT TIP: Mature Language Filter

If you’re struggling with other gamers using offensive language you can check out the network’s interface options to enable the mature language filter, which will automatically sensor any profanities. That way you won’t have to deal with their bad language or nasty attitude.

PROBLEM: ‘The troll’

No, this is not a cave dwelling creature or a plastic doll with fluoro hair. In online circles, a troll is someone who contributes controversial or provocative content for the sole purpose of aggravating other users.

HOT TIP: ‘Don’t feed the troll’

No two trolls are alike and this means that they can be hard to identify. Some attack every post instantly while others may attempt to become your ‘friend’ before unleashing nastiness.  In any case, retaliation is never a good idea. We know trolls like to eat; so adding fuel to the fire by fighting back is only going to satisfy their hunger. Understandably, when faced with a troll it is hard not to bite back, so having a go to response up your sleeve like “don’t feed the troll” will give you room to breathe, regain your power and move on…

HOT TIP: Understand the game’s social features

Before you download a social game app, take a look at the description of the game provided by the developer on the app’s download page. You will be able to see what type of social interaction is available through the game, for example, whether it enables chat or not, which will help you to decide if this is the game is suitable for you.

HOT TIP: Seek support offline

Most importantly, jump offline for help. One of the most difficult parts of being (cyber)bullied is the feeling like you’re going through it alone. If you look up and look out there are plenty of people in the R-E-A-L world that are there for you. When you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s a great idea to get a fresh perspective, seek advice, or have some real talk with someone you trust. It’s also important to focus on what you can do as opposed to what you can’t do – this empowers us to take the most effective action we can and move on with our lives.

Caitlin Wood is Head of Programs at PROJECT ROCKIT, an Australian-based initiative that was born from a simple vision: a world where respect and kindness thrive over bullying, hate and prejudice and all young people are free to realise their potential. Since 2006, PROJECT ROCKIT has worked with hundreds of thousands of Australians, empowering young people in schools to stand up for themselves or a friend when it comes to any type of hate, prejudice or bullying.

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