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Online gaming: Signs your child may be bullied

Bullying within online gaming can be a real issue. Know the signs and what you can do to help prevent it.

Child hugging father, surrounded by cyberbullying coming from gaming headset

Online gaming and bullying

The upsides and downsides of online gaming

Gaming can play a positive role in your child’s social life. It’s a space that can help them build social skills through interactivity with other players.

They can connect, engage and compete with others as well as develop and maintain friendships with people they’ve met online or friends they may know in person.

But sadly online games can also be another space where cyberbullying can happen. This can look like other players sending or posting negative or hurtful messages, excluding or ganging up on other players and using the game as a tool of harassment.

As a parent you can play a role in helping to prevent bullying within games.

Research shows that 1 in 2 of all online gamers, have at some point been subjected to bullying within a game.

What cyberbullying looks like in online games

Cyberbullying involves using technology with the intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harass or abuse somebody. Here are some examples of what cyberbullying might look like in an online game:





Hate speech

Name calling

Sexist remarks

Sending viruses

Spreading rumours

Insults and swearing

Unwanted sexual contact

Destroying or stealing items

Sharing others' private information

Negative and hurtful messages

Ganging up on or targeting others

Account hacking and password theft

Signs your child might be getting bullied in games

Your child may avoid telling you if cyberbullying is happening as they often feel ashamed or fear that the game will be taken away.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Being upset during or after playing
  • Reduction in time spent gaming
  • Losing self-esteem or confidence
  • Being jumpy or nervous when playing
  • Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and activities
  • Feeling more anxious, sad, embarrassed or withdrawn
  • Being secretive or protective of their gaming
  • Avoiding school, sports or social gatherings
  • Decline in school work or "acting out" in anger
  • Avoiding discussions around gaming activities
  • Unexpected changes in friendship groups
  • Decline in their physical health
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
Mobile phone with large cross on it

Take an active, non-judgemental interest in what your child plays as this can help them to feel more comfortable to open up about their gaming experience.

Things you can do to support your child

Here are some ideas on how to prevent cyberbullying in games and support your child if they’re being bullied:

Keep gaming consoles in easy to supervise locations

Know the ratings of the games your child is playing

Reassure them that you can sort it out together

Remind them it’s not their fault and they’re not alone

Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking about it

Establish rules to follow if they are being treated negatively

Keep a record of all negative interactions as evidence

Encourage them to keep up with other social activities they enjoy

Show your child how to report, mute or block players who bully others

Encourage them not to react or retaliate as it can make things worse

Show an interest in your child’s gaming – what are they playing and who with

Play or observe how the game works and what they’re exposed to in the game

Check to see if the games your child plays have reporting features or moderators

Help set their privacy settings and remind them to never give away personal info

Teach them about safe online behaviour, including not clicking on links from strangers

Encourage your child to take some time out from the game to remove the cause of stress

Support their general wellbeing by helping them to eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep

Remind them they can stop playing with people who bully others, leave the game or start a new one

Report cyberbullying

You're not alone when it comes to dealing with sexting! You can make a complaint to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Still feeling lost on how to support your child?

There is support available

Check out the eSafety website for more information on how to support your child and how to report cyberbullying.

You can also call Parentline in your State or Territory for more support and guidance on any parenting issue.

If your child needs support with a cyberbullying issue, or for any other reason, encourage them to talk to a Kids Helpline counsellor. They can call us, start a WebChat or email us today.

This content was last reviewed 28/08/2019

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