Teenage Girl Wearing Headset Gaming At Home Using Dual Computer Screens

Many young people spend multiple hours each day interacting with others through online gaming platforms. Often, their online encounters are positive and help them feel like they are part of a larger community. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 23 million out of the 26 million gamers ages 13-17 in the U.S. play online multiplayer games. For most youth, gaming provides an online community in which they can escape the stresses of daily life and connect with others. In fact, the ADL states that more than 9 out of 10 young gamers report some form of positive social experience in online multiplayer games. 

For many gamers, though, this escape is more complicated as they face forms of hate that range from subtle persistent microaggressions to more pronounced and extreme harassments like slurs, epithets, and sexual harassment. In a recent study conducted by the ADL, they found that: 

  • 25% of young players who identified as African-American, women, or Asian American, said they always hide their identity when playing online, while 42% said they sometimes hide their identity.  
  • This decision to hide their identity comes as a result of the harassment experienced by many of these young people. 
  • 60% experienced harassment in online multiplayer games—representing nearly 14 million young gamers, with many of these gamers reporting that players had said negative things to them based on their avatar/character’s skin, their username, or their in-game possessions. 
  • Many also reported that they had been excluded from joining a game or chat because of their identity.

These are not one-time incidents but rather an accumulation of experiences that force gamers to hide or alter their online identities to avoid such harassment and bullying. 

Gamers who have showcased their gameplay on Twitch have even been victims of a trend known as Hate Raids. Twitch is a platform used to livestream games and highlight a user’s skills. A “raid” is a feature on Twitch’s platform that allows users to direct traffic to another person’s channel to boost that channel’s viewership. Hate raids, however, involve the use of bots (fake accounts) to spew a barrage of hateful messages in the chat on a user’s channel. Most victims of these hate raids come from marginalized communities with the messages targeting their gender, race, or LGBTQ identification. 

Over the past few months, users have expressed their frustration to Twitch. After feeling ignored, many gamers took to Twitter and posted examples of hate raids using the hashtag #TwitchDoBetter

On September 29, Twitch published a blog post titled, Securing your Chat with Phone and Email Verification in which they stated, “Hate and harassment of any kind is unacceptable and prohibited on Twitch, whether it’s an offensive message, malicious follows, or the egregious “hate raid” attacks that have targeted marginalized creators over the past months. Curbing this type of behavior is, and will continue to be, a top priority for us.” The post outlines steps the platform is taking to reduce the use of bot accounts by requiring phone and/or email verification for chat. 

While many games have built-in safeguards to protect gamers from harassment, it is still the responsibility of platforms and players to stand up against discrimination, racism, and sexism and to use their voices to help create a positive culture of gameplay. Parents and families can help their young gamers with this process.

Tips for Families

  • Review safety features with your child to ensure appropriate controls are turned on, such as blocking younger children from having conversations with strangers via voice chat.
  • Discuss bullying and harassment in online gaming spaces with your children to help them identify and intervene in this behavior. 
  • Educate yourself and your children about implicit bias and microaggressions and the impact they can have on others.
  • Ask them what they think about such occurrences, if it has happened to them, and what they think they can do to be part of the solution.
  • Participate in your child’s gameplay. Watch them play or play with them and point out prejudiced language and biases in representation.
  • Talk about peer pressure and help your child understand the importance of intervening rather than “going along with others” when they see or hear prejudiced behavior or language from other players.
  • Make sure your child knows what to do if they’re being bullied or harassed online?
    • Block the cyberbully. The less contact you have with the cyberbully, the less damage he or she can do. 
    • Change the email address, screen names, or other usernames that the cyberbully is using to harass.
    • Keep your gaming and social networking profiles set to private when applicable.
    • Get help and seek assistance from a trusted adult or the online organization.

By stepping into your child’s online gaming communities through viewing or playing, you can witness first-hand what to watch out for so you can have discussions on how to handle different situations that might arise during gameplay. Together, you can set your child up for a more positive gaming experience and help them to stand up for themselves and others. 

Support for EGUSD Students and Families