Staying Safe Online – Harassment, Cyber-Bullying etc.

Let’s Talk About It…

Ah, the good ol’ internet… Except it’s not always, so good.

It’s no secret that the internet poses a ton of benefits to individuals and organisations alike – allowing for effective communication both locally and internationally in the form of media and news where information is transmitted much faster, as well as enhancing social connections amongst users and boosting businesses via fast advertising and website trafficking, all being a few notable mentions that make it reliable in its functionality.

On the other hand however, these benefits are often times marred by a handful of individuals who seek it upon themselves to bring grief and ultimately ruin the experience for other users. Acts commonly known as cyber-bullying or in this day and age, trolling. Throw in ‘griefers’ – however this term is coined specifically for those who also happen to extend their trolling to online gaming. SMH.

And what purpose does online trolling serve, you ask? This age old question remains open to one’s interpretation. Fear not, however! As this article covers steps both gamers and parents of gamers alike, can take to preserve online safety when gaming or conversing over the internet.

As many of us know, the simple existence of the troll community is highly dependent on the use of anonymity via aliases, as a means of preserving their identity online, which then enables them to cause havoc. Meaning it’s an even more difficult task of knowing exactly who is on the other end of the screen.

All in all, it bears a strange semblance to the classic ‘Whac-A-Mole’ game, as trolls never quite go away even after one of their accounts is disabled, as they often use another one to continue their harassment. So what can YOU do to limit falling victim to online bullying/harassment?

1. BLOCKING & REPORTING

Most chat and gaming apps/platforms including the likes of Discord, Steam, and even majority online community forums now have an option to either block or report harmful posts and messages. Which essentially means the mods (moderators!) who frequent the platform will be able to see flagged posts and deal with them accordingly.

It is also possible to stop interacting with users whose behaviour you wish to avoid, by either muting, manually blocking or simply deleting them from your private chat/party.

2. LIMITING INFORMATION SHARED

If you’re creating a chat or gaming account/profile, it is always better to try to use a username specific to you that you can be identified with, as opposed to using your real name combined with your real date of birth, for example. And the same also applies for creating passwords. Yes, we know people still do this.

It’s important to be cautious with what personal information and details you are sharing on any site. Whilst it is okay to be yourself and use the likes of your name, age, email etc when signing up to create online accounts, please bear in mind that not every single detail needs to be shared with the public outside of the account creation process.

This just means not oversharing too much information on your profile or even limiting things like who sees what information outside of your known (IRL) friends list. Most platforms usually have options within your Account Settings where you can go in and decide what is displayed to the general public on your profile. Meaning you are then able to withhold other details and stop them from being shown on your account, to the other strangers you’re conversing and playing with.

3. DON’T LINK ANY OF YOUR REAL SOCIAL ACCOUNTS

Beyond account creation, we all have control to some extent over what information we hand out online. Sure, to the government and internet providers nothing is secret, however when it comes to dealing with strangers online, only YOU control what information they are able to access and trace back to you.

It is not uncommon for young people nowadays to link their real social media accounts on platforms to garner more followers and let people know on what handles they can find you on (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc) – however this can be detrimental if this information is shared so easily on your profile where other strangers can see this.

In short, if a troll was persistent enough with troubling you and your social media handles are proudly displayed on your profile, it’s easy for them to continue this trolling onto other platforms as they have access to your usernames on these other sites.

If you MUST share your social media as maybe a means of staying in touch with other likeminded gamers you wish to remain friends with, by no means share your IRL (in real life!) handles but rather create a separate social media handle specifically for those online friends – as a means of separating your online friends from the ones you know in real life. At least, until you are sure they are who they say they are.

The most elite of trolls know exactly how to act and what to say to trick you into befriending them and before you know it, you’re sharing personal information about yourself with them under the pretence they’re a friend. Same way you wouldn’t get into a stranger’s car – don’t be one of those people who have fallen victim to trusting online strangers too easily.

Never provide trolls with another platform to continue to oppress you on. Because you’ll only have yourself to blame for this.

4. DON’T JUST GO OPENING ANY LINKS YOU HAPPEN TO SEE

This one sounds silly but most people have fallen victim to this. If you happen to be on an Online Forum, gaming website or otherwise and see either advertisements or posted links on how to get free currency, the rule of thumb is to ignore.

The same goes for if the link appears to have been spammed under numerous posts, as these are always phishing scams. And last but not least, if it otherwise screams suspicious to you when you read it. I.e. “GET FREE COINS here: https://blahblahblahgetfreecoins.com” etc, then trust your instincts and ignore it.

The only thing offered for free on the internet is 99% guaranteed to be viruses so spare yourself the hassle and time by not falling for the bait. All they’re after is one simple click.

We all know viruses lead to compromised security, which then leads to potential hacking – after which your sensitive information can be gathered and thereafter used to target or otherwise harass you. It’s really not worth the risk.

IF YOU ARE ON A CONSOLE or PC

All consoles have their own respective sections within their Settings pages where users can go and view their privacy settings and who they can game and communicate with. And so it is important to take a look at these if you’re a parent of a young gamer and set up your child’s account according to your standards against the options presented. Commonly known as Parental Controls. 

Important: There have been numerous complaints over on the Microsoft Community Forum where users are reporting being locked out of their Gaming accounts and asking for help on how to go about recovering them. Please ensure your data remains protected by not compromising your sign in details. NEVER share your login details with members outside of your household, as this would give them the power to change your details and effectively stop you from accessing your account.

GAMERS,

From experience, we too know how difficult and angering it may be when you’re being repeatedly targeted by griefers *cough GTA V Online cough*

But it is important to reign in the rage (better than taking it out on your poor controller/headset) and set aside the frustration as opposed to screaming down the mic and letting the opps get the better of you. Remember, all they’re after is a reaction – so don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they’ve succeeded in getting a rise out of you. As this will only feed their ego and motivate them to target you again.

Yes, this means you should refrain from scrolling through the public lobby list, searching their gamertag and sending them vulgar verbal or written messages.

We know the cursey words can be tempting but just breathe, ignore and they’ll move onto the next unsuspecting person in the lobby. As risk of retaliating could serve you negatively when reporting the troller and may potentially lead to the banning of your own account also for guideline violations.

LASTLY,

And if for whatever reason you find yourself on the receiving end of abusive messages on any online account, it is important to keep evidence of this – so don’t let the hate get to you and cause you to respond in likeness, but rather keep the messages as they are on your account and then look to report to the respective Admin Team or Customer Support Team when filing your case complaint.

In instances where the messages can be retracted, ensure to take a screenshot after viewing and keep these to go in hand when making a case against the troller’s account.

All in all, no matter the platform, app, console, website, etc. If you are ever in a position where you are being cyber bullied, along with the collection of evidence to strengthen your case, it is important to let someone know – whether this be a trusted parent/guardian, or a trusted friend IRL and if the situation escalates to threatening behaviour, the police who will deal with the situation accordingly.

In short, NEVER suffer in silence. It may be disheartening and you may be fearful of telling someone, however it is important not to feel alone when you find yourself in this situation.

It is by no means embarrassing to seek help from a trusted person if you need it and try to remember that the only persons who should feel ashamed through all this are the keyboard warriors themselves who dedicate their time and energy into wrecking misery on others.

Having said the above, if you or someone you know are falling victim to cyber-bullying when gaming, please visit Online gaming | Childline for more information.

Please continue to Game Responsibly.

Game Responsibly

Posted on 30th Aug 2022 by Natasha

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