Online multiplayer games have become extremely popular among our students with the numbers playing each year seeming to outdo the previous. When this trend is combined with our current challenge of social isolation, we have the perfect conditions where their popularity could reach unprecedented levels.
There are undoubtedly positives in allowing our children to remain socially connected during these isolating times, but we need to be aware of the potential repercussions of the heavy playing of multiplayer games. Read more to learn about three behavioural trends that are very apparent in our students that could be linked to time spent playing these games along with some resources designed to assist parents in learning more about them.
Before we look at the behavioural trends, some quick background information about online multiplayer games.
What is an online multiplayer game?
These are games that players can play with other people in real-time anywhere around the world. They regularly feature a chat option that allows players to talk with each other while playing.
The big three of these games at our school are probably Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft but other titles of varying popularity include Apex Legends, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Call of Duty, NBA, NFL Madden, Rocket League and Counter-Strike among many, many others.
Many of these games involve players killing other players to determine a final winner.
How big are these games?
According to figures from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, 64% of Australian kids aged 8 to 17 have played a multiplayer online game with others.
Trash talking culture
One of the most appealing aspects of these games is the ability to talk with other players while playing the game. This has generated a new sub-culture of language and terms, many of which are derogatory, that are now being used in the same manner in real life.
There has become a very obvious trend, particularly amongst boys, of talking ‘trash’ to their friends when competing with them. Games of basketball or football at school are regularly punctuated with language that you would not expect to hear among friends, sometimes even best friends.
This is not just limited to profanities.
Terms such as ‘noob’, ‘scrub’, ‘bossing’, ‘owned’, ‘pwnd’, ’aggro’, ‘ghosting’ are being used by our kids to put down or get reactions out of others. For many, it is not simply enough to win a game of Ga-Ga without ‘owing’, ‘pwning’ or ‘bossing’ someone who is ‘trash’.
As a school, we value Success and consider it important that our children know not only how to win with grace and humility, but also how to compete and potentially lose with sportsmanship and respect.
‘They won’t play with me’ is a very common line of complaint heard from primary school children, particularly in the younger year levels. For many, this represents a challenge to try and join a new group of people in the short term. The obvious benefits this can provide is that the student builds relationships with more peers and the impact of the initial exclusion is greatly reduced.
Something that is becoming more and more apparent is the impact of when this common scenario plays out in an online world.
Firstly, something that we used to see mainly in the junior years, now tends to occur more in the older year levels.
We are also noticing that when a child is excluded from a group online, the stress it causes can spill over into the real world. This stress manifests in moods of sadness and malaise and a reluctance to join in with others.
Where this becomes particularly concerning is that it can have a cyclical impact. The student is missing out online, and then is also missing out in real life due to the stress of missing out online. This cycle can be difficult to break, particularly if the student has a heavy reliance on social media and gaming for their social interactions outside of school.
We are a fully inclusive school that seeks to offer Acceptance of everyone. Having students avoid or shun others is the complete opposite of what our school is so well known for.
Difficulty to emotionally regulate
Another apparent behavioural trend is emotional outbursts from children that appear to far outweigh the gravity of the situation. Instances of inconsolable kids who missed out on the front of the line, lost a point in downball, or didn’t get to sit next to their friend in class seem to be becoming more common.
Instead of being momentarily annoyed or upset, we are also finding some children can escalate to verbal or physical aggression with little or no warning.
There has been a lot of discussion about the possible connection to this type of behaviour and online gaming in recent years, including this high publicised segment on 60 Minutes from 2018 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R–s3wwIl_s
For anyone whose children do play these sorts of games, I would highly recommend reading this blog post from a parent who works in cyber safety and her personal experience with Fortnite –
Resilience is another of our school values. We work hard to teach our students how to react when something goes wrong, as it is inevitable that something will go wrong in life. These reactions are often matched to a ‘catastrophe scale’ in order to try to learn about appropriate and realistic reactions. The reaction to losing a point in downball should not be the same as your cat running away.
What to do?
In last week’s eSmart article, we discussed how to become involved in your child’s online life. This means joining in on their games, listening to the way they communicate with the other players and bringing the games out into the open areas of the house. It also means putting realistic limits on the amount of time they spend online and trying to balance this with other pastimes and activities away from screens (a really difficult undertaking in this current climate).
For more specific information about some of these games from the Carly Ryan Foundation, click on the links below:
Fortnite – https://www.carlyryanfoundation.com/files/229_fortnite.pdf
Roblox – https://www.carlyryanfoundation.com/files/244_roblox.pdf
Minecraft – https://www.carlyryanfoundation.com/files/241_minecraft.pdf
Apex Legends – https://www.carlyryanfoundation.com/files/226_apex_legends.pdf
Year 6 Teacher and eSmart Coordinator