Popular amongst teens, online games reflect a wide array of activities and interests. They can include sports, shooter or shooting, simulation, adventure, real-time strategy, role-playing, fantasy and educational games. Online gaming communities often use their own “lingo” in chats between players within the game. Online gaming provides an opportunity for connection, particularly with people who share a common interest. Some games have vast numbers of users, some of whom have played for many years, building a sense of familiarity or community. Some teens who are wary of meeting in person, or prefer to be able to choose the identity they present to the world, may find more flexibility and comfort online. As with any activity, online or offline, everyone should be able to participate free from harassment and abuse.
Unfortunately, many people experience online harassment while playing online games.
STRATEGIES TO INCREASE PRIVACY AND SAFETY
Choose a Safe Username
The ability to remain anonymous online varies depending on the gaming platform. In some games, a user can make up any screen name and choose an “avatar” or online image to represent them. When creating accounts and profiles, choose a username that doesn’t include a real name or other identifying information.
Be Careful What You Share
Users often have a choice about what personal or contact information to share with other users through an online profile or chat conversations with other players. As games cross from having a conversation within the game to real life, privacy and safety concerns may increase. Games may link a player’s online presence to a specific location in order to let other gamers interact with them but this information could be misused for stalking and harassment. Protect your privacy by not giving out identifying or contact information.
Consider using different email addresses, profile pictures, and strong passwords for gaming, and for each game you play. Keeping this information separate from the rest of your life can help avoid doxing, or other users begin able to connect your gaming profile to your real life.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Privacy settings can affect who can see if you’re online, who you can play with and whether people can see what games you’re playing. You may also be able to block players from contacting you.
Downloads Aren’t Always Safe
Attachments and links could install spyware or other malware on your devices. They can contain viruses that will damage your computer or mobile, and give people access to your personal data.
Trust Your Instincts
If you start to feel uncomfortable, it’s always ok to cease contact.
MEETING IN REAL LIFE
When considering augmented reality games or meeting up in real life, here are some additional steps to consider.
It’s ok to cut a gaming session short or leave a meeting if it doesn’t feel safe or fun. Trust your instincts
IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING ONLINE HARASSMENT
Harassment, threats, and abuse that happen “only” online should be taken seriously.
Teens experiencing online harassment and abuse may choose to report their experiences to the gaming platforms or police. Because the technology uses both hardware like computers or smartphones, as well as Internet providers and the gaming company’s servers, digital evidence may be available. In addition, teens may consider taking pictures, screenshots, or saving other relevant information. See our tips on documenting abuse, and a sample documentation log.
Online harassment and abuse may fall under a number of crimes, depending on what is happening.
You are not alone. If you know someone who you think is experiencing online harassment, encourage them to chat with a trusted adult or seek help from one of the organizations listed below.
Spark Teen Digital Dating Violence Project
This document is a part of BCSTH’s Teen Digital Dating Violence Toolkit for Teens. This document, or any portion thereof, may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever as long as acknowledgment to the BC Society of Transition Houses is included in the product.
This document was published March 2022.
Adapted for Canada from Day One, New York, United States.