Online gaming is incredibly popular among children and young people. Whether it is through phones and mobiles devices, PCs or games consoles, most children and young people will have experience in gaming online. However, there are some areas of gaming that could put LGBTQ+ children and young people at risk of being bullied or subjected to homophobic, biphobic or transphobic language.
It is important to note that although people of all genders engage with online gaming, it is and has historically been strongly male-oriented. As a result, women and girls have found that they are often targeted unfairly, and regularly face gendered abuse and sexist/misogynistic remarks and behaviours, that can be sexual in nature. Young female gamers, whether in the LGBTQ+ community or not, are statistically at the highest risk of verbal abuse in online games.
Although you might not understand your child’s willingness to spend a lot of time gaming online, there is a lot to suggest that there are multiple benefits to this as a hobby. Online gaming benefits to online gaming for all young people, both those who are LGBTQ+ and those who are not – but there may be particular benefits for LGBTQ+ young people which include:
There are some risks that come with online gaming, predominantly revolving around hate speech and bullying that takes place in-game.
It is important to be aware that:
Not all LGBTQ+ young people will want to come out as LGBTQ+ in online gaming.
Although it might feel like banning online gaming would be more beneficial for the mental and physical wellbeing of your child, this is not feasible, and there are multiple things to consider related to balancing their wellbeing with their love of this particular hobby.
It is important to remember that your child might not even be experiencing these harms, and possibly have never witnessed bullying, hate speech or any other harm in a game before. As such, there may be nothing you need to protect them from in this case. Nevertheless, it is important to be prepared that these issues could arise at any time and having an action plan to support them can give you the confidence you need to give them the support they need.
There are numerous things you can do to help to protect your child from online harassment that occurs in a game, even if you cannot be there to moderate with them. Having an open conversation with them about their gaming habits, who they game with online and why they enjoy it so much is by far the best way to begin to understand them and the nature of any harassment that might occur.
Conversations to have:
See related advice and practical tips to support children online: