Bullying rampant on online video game platforms


Video games have been a pastime for decades, but some children can get sucked into a virtual online world ripe with bullies.

Gamers can compete with players from across the globe while talking to them in real time.

“They could be playing with people from all over the world and they could actively communicate,” said Dr. Nate Somers, Child Psychiatrist from Baystate Medical Center.

While these developments in gaming are opportunities to expand their group of friends, it can also invite in strangers.

“Children are very sensitive to any type of social interaction,” said Somers.

Rampant bullying has become an unfortunate reality on online video game platforms.

”There is no monitoring of those servers, so pretty much anything goes,” said Frank Bond, owner of Stateline Video Games in Feeding Hills.

Some wonder if certain gaming communities are so unwelcoming, why wouldn’t children simply stop playing?  Somers said the question is quite complex.

“There is a real reinforcement from people who are so stimulated by a video game environment, where so much is happening,” Somers noted.

That need to be a part of the action can be overwhelming. “We do see youngsters here who play 4,5, 6 or more hours a day playing video games,” said Somers added.

Bullies can verbally attack players under the veil of anonymity. “I think it’s kind of like road rage, where people are perceiving themselves to be anonymous,” said Somers.

Children with autism can have a particularly difficult time in these situations. 

“A youngster with autism may not understand the social context and not understand what’s happening. They might put themselves in a position in a video game where they might be targeted without realizing it,” Somers explained.

For some young people, a line between the real world and the virtual realm can become blurred.

“If a youngster really is avoiding everything else they need to be doing to just to finish the video games, than you start worrying about an addictive type of pattern,” said Somers.

Addiction to video games, while not common, can be consuming.  There are appropriate options for budding gamers of every age, but it’s important for parents to do their research first.

“There’s a lot of websites you can go to that parents actually review games and gear it toward being suitable for their children,” said Bond.  He suggests that parents looking at the back of the case for the age rating.

There is often an explanation as to why it might not be right for your child.  If the game is intended for an older crowd, the other gamers playing that particular game could be an inappropriate match for your child. 

« I wouldn’t let your kids play online if it’s not age-appropriate,” said Bond.

Parents set the rules best suited for their child.

“The companies are very open about the online servers are not monitored. And that’s true, you can go on there and say anything you want,” said Bond.

Copyright 2016 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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