Cyberbullying Common in the World of Online Gaming

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Key Takeaways

  • Nearly all video game players are exposed to cyberbullying and sexual harassment

  • About 96% of players said they’d faced online abuse in the previous year

  • Women and professional players are the most common targets of abuse

THURSDAY, June 20, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Cyberbullying and sexual harassment are rampant in the world of professional video gaming and online gaming, a new study reports.

Nearly 96% of 145 video game players from 14 countries said they had been targeted online in the previous year.

“It’s not just an isolated incident,” said lead researcher Louise Trudgett-Klose, a doctoral student in psychology with the University of South Austrialia.

“The fact that 96% of players – professional or otherwise – experienced cyberbullying in the previous 12 months suggests that toxic behaviors are prevalent in the gaming community,” Trudgett-Klose noted in a university news release.

Women and professional e-sports players are the most common targets of abuse, results show.

Women are targeted most often for sexual harassment in the world of gaming, particularly as they rise through the elite ranks, researchers found.

Women make up 46% of the world’s 3 billion video game players, and represent 16% of e-sports competitors and content creators, researchers said in background notes.

“There was a definite link between the level of professional gaming and the incidence of cyberbullying, and sexual harassment for women players,” Trudgett Klose said. “The more professional a player becomes, the more they are exposed to hostile behavior.”

Gaming professionals who attracted the most fame, with a large fan base and heavy presence on social media platforms, were exposed to the worst levels of cyberbullying, researchers found.

For professional players, about half the bullying (49%) came from other players and the other half from the public.

The findings were published recently in the journal Entertainment Computing.

“It is important to note that playing video games itself is not the issue,” said senior researcher Sarven McLinton, a lecturer in psychology with the University of South Australia. “However, the culture around gaming is hyper masculine and very much targeted towards heterosexual men. Anyone who falls outside that group is more vulnerable.”

Cyberbullying involves name-calling, derogatory comments, exclusion of players, verbal threats and manipulative tactics, researchers said. Sexual harassment includes being sent explicit messages and images or unwanted sexual comments.

Most professional players are independent and not protected by an organization, leaving them with few options to seek safety and protection, researchers said.

“Professional video gaming is a growing sector, and just like any other occupation, workers and employees have a right to feel safe in the workplace,” the researchers concluded. ”However, this is not the case for professional players, and much less so for women.”

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more on cyberbullying and online gaming.

SOURCE: University of South Australia, news release, June 2024

What This Means For You

More research is needed into ways to effective counter cyberbullying and sexual harassment in online gaming.

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