When children and young people play games online, it should be a fun experience and a time for them to be entertained, connect with friends and even learn new skills.
However, that’s not always the case, and some children may come across other players who are unkind and deliberately try to ruin the game for others.
Bullying can take place on most gaming platforms but it can be especially common in multiplayer games that let users play with people they don’t know, sometimes hundreds of players at the same time.
This could open your child up to more opportunities to see or experience bullying online, with lots of users interacting back and forth in the game-play.
That’s why it’s always important to check the type of games your child is playing, and make sure you know if they are playing with people they don’t know.
There are many ways in which bullying can take place in these games, including sending upsetting messages to another player; interfering with gameplay; deliberately making someone lose a game; hacking someone’s account; and excluding someone on purpose from a game.
It can be very distressing for a child if they experience any of these things while gaming, so it’s important to arm them with the knowledge of how to get out of a situation if they feel distressed.
You can make sure they know how to report and block users who are showing bullying behaviours, and let them know that you are always there to talk if they come across anything that upsets them.
If your child is new to online gaming, it may be a good idea to have them only play online with their friends and people they know in real life, at first.
Gaming is often more fun when done with other people, and setting up private games will minimise the risk of bullying or harassment.
You can agree some rules around who they’re allowed to play with and show them how to invite their friends to a private game.
It’s always good to check in regularly with them on how it’s going and remind them to never share the invite link with people they don’t know or without checking it’s ok with you first.
Net Aware, our joint website with O2, has lots of tips and game-specific guides for parents and carers.
It gives helpful information on things such as parental controls, online safety tips, and user guides for many of the post popular games, such as Roblox, Minecraft and Among Us.
For more information on keeping your child safe online, visit www.net-aware.org.uk. If a child or young person sees something that upsets them online, Childline is here, free and confidentially, on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.