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How social media and online gaming contribute to cyberbullying

Luana PASCU

April 30, 2018

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How social media and online gaming contribute to cyberbullying

Kids are generally unaware of the dangers posed by the online world. They don’t know how to deal with inappropriate situations or, worse, cyberbullying, harassment and outright online aggression. Once on the internet, teenagers are exposed to all types of risks, including cyberbullying, identity theft, invasion of privacy, adult language and explicit content, and predators who could lurk behind a fake profile on social media or a gaming community.

Trying to ‘fit in’ and its consequences

Because teenagers want to ‘fit in’ and be popular among their friends, some are pressured into joining shady online communities where they are actively harassed, shamed and even threatened with physical harm. When asked, teenagers said cyberbullying has made them feel self-conscious and insecure (45%), sad (45%), depressed (40%) and strange/odd (35%).

Social media makes bullying a lot easier and can often bring out the worst in people when they are not looking at their victim in person. Instagram (40%), Facebook (31%), Snapchat (31%), Kik (27%) and YouTube (21%) are the top 5 online platforms for bullying, according to a Bitdefender study. Kik is more popular with teens aged 14 to 16, while Facebook, Live.ly, WhatsApp and Pinterest are more common in pre-teen bullying, ages 12 to 13.

The reasons for bullying depend on the social platform used. For instance, almost 60 percent of teens said they were bullied for their looks, while 44 percent blamed their opinions, 30 percent named personality traits and 27 percent said they were bullied for their fashion style.

Instagram is a network where members share pictures and videos. Naturally, this increases the risk of harassment based on appearance or style. Because physical appearance is the most common reason for bullying, more girls than boys are bullied on Instagram than on any other platform. Political fights are more popular on Facebook, while WhatsApp is more common in bullying boys.

Online gaming and psychological trauma

Cyberbullying attacks also occur in online multi-player gaming, through connected devices such as Xbox live, but at a smaller rate of incidence (8%). Various parent organizations and educational institutions are promoting educational, monitored online gaming platforms from which teenagers can improve their knowledge and skills, and be protected from bullies. Through educational games, they aim to educate and empower children, not expose them to torment or psychological trauma.

Quite often, kids who play games online might be overwhelmed by the content they interact with. They are exposed to a culture of violence and can’t control whom they play or speak with. Neither can parents, unless they research content ratings in advance and use parental control features on devices to block inappropriate messages from strangers or chat rooms.

Parents can help

Parents can get involved to help their kids stay safe online. Besides familiarizing themselves with social networks, online communities and games, they can from the very beginning teach their kids to never reveal personal information online or engage in hateful conversations, and to immediately report hateful behavior.  

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