Image by ExplorerBob from Pixabay

Post submitted by Jayde Lynch

Earlier this year 20-year-old Sam Haberern from Connecticut was playing Call of Duty on his Xbox when he accepted an invite from another player to play with him, he joined in the group’s online conversation via his headset.  While the conversation started out pleasant, things soon took an unpleasant turn when some of the other gamers started asking Haberern whether he has ever murdered anyone. At around 3 am the following morning one of the gamers sent him a message via Xbox Live that contained his home address. Shortly afterward both his home phone and his mother’s cellphone rang. He also received a message on his game screen asking him why he didn’t answer.  What started out as a night of relaxing gaming for Haberern ended with him feeling unsafe in his own home thanks to the malicious conduct of online bullies.

Online bullying becoming far too commonplace

Despite what we would like to believe, what happened to Sam Haberern was by no means an isolated incident. As many as 50% of online gamers have experienced bullying according to a survey conducted by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label and social platform Habbo. It was found that as many as 57% of respondents were subjected to hate speech while 47% have been threatened by other gamers. A further 34% of online gamers have had their personal information shared via an online gaming community. Online bullying like that endured by Haberern is, in fact, a lot more common than imagined with as many as one in five gamers stating that they have actually quit an online game due to being severely traumatized by bullying.

There is no simple solution

After the unpleasant incident, Haberern contacted Microsoft via their website and reported what occurred. He later typed a Reddit post as he was unsatisfied with the response he received from the manufacturer. Despite his post, which questioned what recourse was available to him, going viral, he was still left wanting a viable solution. Although everyone from console makers and game designers to online chat applications and even the FBI is aware of the severity of online game-related bullying, freedom of speech fears, a lack of chargeable offenses, and complications arising from gaming practices and state-of-the-art technology make the eradication of bullying difficult.

Prevention is better than cure

In order to avoid online bullying in the gaming community, it is important to follow a few basic safety precautions.  As difficult as it may seem, try to scroll past offensive remarks and, depending on the severity of the comments, block the offending users.  If someone is threatening you, report them immediately and block/mute them as well. Don’t ever share your personal information with anyone you have met online and never use any real-world information when setting up your player profile. If you are concerned about your safety, report the incident to your nearest police department as well and remember to refrain from being drawn into any online fights that can end up incriminating you as well if you act out of fear or anger.

Gaming is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable pastime but unfortunately, online bullies have ruined the experience for many passionate gamers.  If you find yourself being on the receiving end of an online bully’s malice make sure you do everything in your power to stay safe while continuing to enjoy the exhilaration of your favorite games.