The Social Side of Gaming: Internet Security Tips To Protect Yourself Whilst Chatting Online
Online gaming has become an addictive norm for many of us. Whilst it may be an entertaining way to pass the afternoon, gamers often overlook potential risks and negative side effects that can result from too much time spent in the online world. For example, in-game chat features add a fun social element, enhancing the user experience. Players communicate via text and audio to collaboratively achieve game missions and celebrate their successes. However, these tools also possess the potential to facilitate and encourage serious behavioural issues including cyberbullying, cyberstalking and other types of predatory conduct, posing a significant threat to user internet security and privacy
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is defined as the inappropriate use of technology and the internet to virtually harass and bully individuals. There are several forms of cyberstalking — spreading false accusations, keeping track of other people’s internet activities, tracing their location, cloning accounts, and spreading malware onto other people’s devices — and all have the potential to cause extreme, real-world consequences.
There is arguably no better place to execute this kind of behaviour than in the virtual world of gaming, where millions of people interact with each other, every day. With built-in chat features, the work of online bullies and stalkers has only become easier — particularly for those who are targeting children and young gamers.
Identifying and combating red flags
Aside from cyberstalking, there are many methods through which cyberbullies may choose to target and attack their victims. Being able to identify standard warning signs that a fellow gamer may not have your best interests at heart is the first step in protecting yourself and others online.
Unfortunately, anonymity in the chat feature of games provides a conveniently safe platform for online bullies who undertake strategies such as ‘whispering’ to unnerve and upset those they are playing with.
‘Whispering’ is gaming terminology for situations in which bullies target their victims personally with derogatory messages or spam group chats with harmful lies and commententary.
Should you witness or be a victim of ‘whispering’, block the user, screenshot the messages and send them to the game administrator immediately. Hopefully the perpetrator will be banned from the game servers. If you witness someone else being targeted in this manner, always provide support to the victim and call the bully out for their harmful actions.
Leaking private information, also known as doxxing, is another dangerous practise in which anonymity plays a central role.
When playing online, gamers tend to create usernames that are not reflective of their true identity. Cybercriminals will message their victims in game chats and manipulate them to reveal sensitive information including their full name and contact details. They will either spread this data to other players, release it onto the dark web or use it to create fake social media profiles in order to wreak havoc in the life of their victim.
Gaming is a popular pursuit for children and teenagers, which is why parents need to be particularly careful of the individuals their children are interacting with whilst playing online. Predators are known to target games in an attempt to exploit and endanger young players.
Such individuals target their victims and often build trust and connection through team gaming experiences before creating isolating situations over in-game chat and video messaging services. Parents should always monitor the types of games their children are playing and speak calmly and openly about the dangers of the online world. Ensure your children are only playing with friends their own age who they have met in the real world.
Steps for safe gaming practise
Always follow these top tips to protect yourself, your friends and family whilst gaming online:
- Never give personal information to a stranger, no matter how convincing they sound or how close a friend they may have become. Sensitive information such as your full name, contact details and date of birth should never be distributed.
- Never share photos of yourself with strangers whilst online. Doing so can lead to identity theft and other similar serious consequences.
- Avoid meeting gaming friends in the real world. Whilst you may have built up a good connection, you cannot be sure that they are the person you believe them to be.
- Parents: have open discussions with your children regarding online safety. Explain that not everyone wants to be their friend and that they should come to you if anyone in the online world is making them feel uncomfortable.
Enjoy the online gaming world and all that it has to offer — games are an excellent, engaging way to stay in contact with friends however you should remain aware of the risks of the online world. Always be sure to protect your private information in order to prevent cyberbullying and cyberstalking, and make sure young gamers are aware of the risks and where they can turn to for help.