Game-based learning to prevent cyberbullying

At best, digital gaming can enhance the wellbeing of a child or a teenager. For many, gaming is an important hobby, a fun thing to do with friends and an opportunity for self-expression and development. Games can be a way to relieve stress or one way to take a break. Some young people even dream of a future working in the gaming industry.   

Date 2024-01-30 Author Finnish Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic gaming, media literacy/education Audience media specialist, organisations and industry, parents and carers
boy and girl with game console in their hand

Unfortunately, sometimes joyful pastimes or content or comments on digital platforms can cause a bad mood or anxiety. Young people report that this happens far too often. To prevent and counteract this, Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL), part of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre, has created the Just kidding! mobile learning game.  

Young people dream of an encouraging and positive gaming culture

 A survey by Helsinki municipality’s Nontoxic initiative in 2018 found that over half of the respondents had encountered mocking, name-calling, belittling or abuse while gaming. Racism, homo- and transphobia and comments about someone’s appearance, speech or sexuality were also regrettably common.  

70 per cent of the respondents reported having experienced hate speech or harassment. Almost all the respondents hoped that something could be done about the insulting treatment and that gamers would be more encouraging towards each other. Notably, when asked, 55 per cent of parents reported that their child had not disclosed experiencing harassment in games or gaming culture. 

Adults shouldn’t be afraid to ask silly questions 

A parent's interest in their child's gaming hobby is one factor that can significantly promote the child's well-being. Asking questions and building up conversations on gaming is one way to show interest. What is it that makes gaming fun and exciting? What kinds of accomplishments does the child experience while gaming? Why do they like a particular game the best? What things in gaming make them feel bad? The gaming practice includes many emotions and interactive situations where the child could benefit from the support of an adult.  

It is equally important to sympathise with the child regarding the important things to them. Encourage and support your child when they need it, and try playing games together with them, too. It is important to be interested in what the children and youth are up to, also in the digital space. Children and young people are happy to have adults interested in the things they care about.  
Dialogue goes a long way in staving off prejudice, concerns and misconceptions, that the parents may harbour regarding gaming. Don’t avoid asking questions that may lead to unpleasant responses. Have you encountered bullying while gaming? Has anyone talked to you unkindly or mistreated you? Would you like to talk about it? How did you manage the situation?  

The game Just kidding! starts the discussion on cyberbullying and online skills 

Everyone is responsible for creating a fairer, safer gaming environment. It is good to ensure that children and young people know that any kind of insulting and discriminating speech is unacceptable. It shouldn’t be the way to gain the respect of fellow gamers either. By letting everyone play games in peace, cheering on others and calling out insulting behaviour, we can make sure gaming remains fun for us all.  

Games can also be a way to learn about bullying and harassment online and how to stand up to these behaviours. In 2023, Mannerheim League for Child Welfare released a new mobile game Just kidding!. The mobile game tackles online bullying by letting the player help a cartoon rabbit called Läppä make better choices in the digital world. The game helps players to train their empathy and other socio-emotional skills as well as online safety and media literacy. Just kidding! game is designed for 10-to-16-year-olds. It is free to use and does not collect data from players. The game can be played individually or as a group at home or implemented into a lesson at school. The Just kidding! game was created on the learning game platform and is available in Finnish and English.  

You can access the game here. Please use the pin code 8855GA (to play in Finnish) or 2C37G3 (to play in English). 

The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare is part of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre with the National Audiovisual Institute and Save the Children Finland

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