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November's Ask an Expert -

When I’m gaming online, some people can get really mean. I know trolling happens, but they keep on harassing me and I don’t know what to do.

First of all, even though this might be ‘normal’ online, it is not okay and you don’t deserve to be treated this way. Bullying, trolling or digital abuse can be harmful in ways we don’t even realize, messing with our mental well-being. It can really drag us down and make something we enjoy, like gaming, something we start to dread or hate. But there are plenty of positive steps to take depending on the situation.

If this is happening with friends and they generally treat you well, help them understand how this is affecting you and your ability to enjoy being around them. Something like:“hey, it’s hard to enjoy this game when you’re acting like this.” This gives them a chance to change their behaviour (and own up to it too). It works even if you aren’t the one getting bullied and might be more effective at getting them to stop if they realize other people don't like it.

If this is happening with someone who is not your friend but they’re local to you, cyberbullying is digital abuse and can be considered a crime. If they are from your school or city, record when it happens and ask them to stop. If they won’t stop or increase their harassment of you, report it to an adult that you trust. Bullying and digital abuse can be found under several categories of the Criminal Code (the set of things that the police can charge people for). Take screenshots if they are messaging your phone or social media accounts. You don’t need to tell them you’ll report them or that you’re taking the screen shots. By asking them to stop, you have given them the chance to change their behaviour. And it’s okay to follow up with legal ways to protect yourself and others.

The most important thing is that you talk to someone you trust about it. They might not have all the solutions but there are people who can help if you are feeling alone, harassed, or threatened.

Of course, when it comes to online communities, you may not know them and they might not even be in your time zone. The anonymity of the internet sometimes makes people feel they can behave in ways they wouldn’t do in person. It still doesn’t make it okay.

If you don’t know the person: block or report them or remove yourself from the situation. If you’re playing games or on social media to enjoy yourself and it’s not happening, do something else. Don’t engage with them by either trying to insult them back or by complaining to them. This is what they want. If it’s bothering you and they know it, they’ll continue to bother you. There are plenty of techniques which can also work (like confusing them with kindness*) but they won’t work if you’re already sad or upset because the bully is looking for a reaction from you.

And if bullying ever makes you sad, upset, or angry, that’s not being weak. That's being human and it’s totally okay to feel those things. Trying to ignore feelings is not helpful either. What we want to try and do is find ways to deal with them that are healthy for us.

Just like before, screenshot or record anything they do because this is the evidence that will build your case for a ban or other actions by the service provider. Video game admins don’t want toxic players on their servers because they make the game less fun for other people. They’ll often be on your side but will need evidence to do something.

We're sorry this is happening to you. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to act so that people will want to be around them. The good news is that most people want to have fun and feel like they’re part of something good so keep on looking for those people and don’t waste your time with people that want to tear you down.

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