Online gaming

Gaming online
Online gaming can be a great way to have fun, relax, escape, be creative and socialise. Follow these tips to protect yourself and help everyone have positive and safe experiences.

In short:

  • Start with some easy safety steps to help keep your online gaming hassle-free.
  • It’s everyone’s responsibility to contribute to a positive and safe online gaming community. If you see or experience hateful or harmful behaviour, you can call it out and report it.
  • Gaming can feel addictive, so if you’re spending too much time online there are things you can do to get some balance back.

How can I avoid online gaming hassles?

Choose a safe username

Don’t pick a username with your name, birthday or location in it, as that makes it easy to hack –  and it can give harassers, cyberstalkers and sexual predators important information about your identity and where you live or hang out. Try choosing usernames based on your interests or personality instead.

Make sure only people you know can see your pictures or recently played feed

While it’s normal to want new friends, it’s best to play it safe by protecting your privacy. You can change your privacy settings to limit your contact with people you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable about, especially if someone online is saying inappropriate things or being creepy. You can find ways to update your settings for different games and apps in The eSafety Guide.

Use your settings to control conversations

Being abused or criticised shouldn’t be a normal part of your gaming life. Try using the ‘mute’ button or settings in your game to get a break from someone who’s annoying you. If things start getting out of hand you could log off for a while, or it may be time to set some hard boundaries by reporting and blocking them.

Collect evidence, report and block abusive players

The gaming platforms have a responsibility to ensure your safety. If the abuse is starting to feel seriously harmful, collect evidence so you have proof – this can include screenshots or recordings of the abusive comments. Then you can report and block the other player in-app – you can find how to do this on common gaming platforms in The eSafety Guide. If you don’t hear back from the platform within 48 hours, you can ask eSafety for help to remove serious cyberbullying content (for under 18s) or adult cyber abuse (for 18+).

Get more help

If you’re feeling bad about what’s been happening while you’re gaming, make sure to talk about it with someone you trust about it. You could show a close friend or family member this information and ask them to help you decide what to do if you’re being treated unfairly. You could also contact Kids Helpline (for 5 to 25 year-olds) or another confidential counselling or support service – they have people who are ready to listen and help.

How can I help create a better online gaming community?

At its best, online gaming provides an even playing field for people of all abilities and backgrounds who want to join in and find their community.

Respect others

Don’t abuse other players or make them feel bad about themselves. Very few people conform to a stereotype, yourself included. Instead of making assumptions about others, try to understand each person on an individual level. For example, you could encourage someone with tips to improve their skills instead of making fun of their playing, and you could use a person’s preferred gender identity without making an issue of it.

Question pack mentality

Thinking critically about what other gamers in your community say or do can help you prevent unintentionally harming another person, especially if the group is getting really worked up. If you don’t agree with how they’re behaving, don’t join in.

Be an upstander

If another gamer is being treated badly, stick up for them if you can. Check they’re OK and offer them support. You could suggest they mute anyone who’s being unfair or unkind. If it gets really serious, help them collect evidence, report and block the abusive player in-app – you can find the steps for a lot of common gaming platforms in The eSafety Guide

How can I tell if I’m 'addicted' to online gaming?

Many online games are designed to keep you playing for as long as possible, so it can be hard to stop once you start. Getting hooked on the ‘digital dopamine’ can have negative impacts on your life – it can disrupt your sleep, your schooling or work, your relationships and your mental health. But being aware of how often and how long you’re gaming can help you avoid problems.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be spending too much time gaming: 

  • Are you playing online games late at night?
  • Are you finding it really hard to get to sleep at night because your mind is still buzzing?
  • Are you putting off getting your schoolwork and assignments done, but still spending lots of time gaming? 
  • Do you get really angry or worked up about losing and often shout or throw things while playing?
  • Do you get really annoyed when anyone interrupts you while you are gaming or asks you to stop?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate when you are not gaming?
  • Do you push friends or family away or try to get out of social commitments so you can spend more time online?
  • Are you missing out on exercise because you are spending so much time gaming?
  • Do other people think your online gaming is a problem, even though you don’t?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be spending too much time playing online games. Try setting time limits for your gaming sessions, scheduling screen-free time or following other tips for balancing your time online, so you can see if they make a difference.

Even when you set some rules for yourself it can be really hard to stick to them. Try talking to a friend or family member and getting them to help you. If you don’t have someone in your life who can provide that support, you can contact Kids Helpline (for 5 to 25 year-olds) or another confidential counselling or support service for help.

Something has happened

Set time limits. Playing for too long can make you reliant on ‘digital dopamine’ and can affect your sleep cycles or ability to enjoy your offline life.
  
Put aside some screen-free time. Having time without any screens can help remove the temptation to go online. Let your friends and family know that you’ll be offline from a certain time and ask them to help you stick to your plan.

Get more help. You may feel like you should be able to handle it yourself, but talking about it with someone else can help you decide what to do and stick with your plan. You can also contact Kids Helpline (for 5 to 25 year-olds) or another confidential counselling and support service for help.

Learn more about balancing your time online.

Ask them to stop. If you feel uncomfortable with the way someone is speaking to you, point it out and ask them to change their behaviour, if you feel safe to do so. Sometimes letting the person know they’re upsetting you will make them realise what they’re saying is hateful or discriminatory and prompt them to stop. 

Mute the conversation. It’s always OK to stop communicating with someone if you no longer feel comfortable or just need to take a break from them – you can change your settings to mute them.

Collect evidence, then report and block on the platform. If the other player is being seriously abusive, take screenshots or recordings of their comments then report and block them in-app. Reporting them will probably help others feel more comfortable while gaming too. The eSafety Guide has information about how to report and block on common gaming platforms. 

Get more help. You may feel like you should be able to handle the situation yourself, but talking to someone you trust, like a friend or family member, can make it easier to decide what to do and deal with the impact. You can also contact Kids Helpline (for 5 to 25 year-olds) or another confidential counselling or support service for help.

Learn more about online hate.

Call it out. If you feel confident and safe to do so, say something to the person who’s being sexist. Sometimes people don’t realise what they’re saying is discriminatory, and a gentle comment can help to change the language they’re using. 

Reach out to the person being targeted. Ask if they’re OK and offer your support. Whether they’re your friend, or someone you only kind of know, a word of support can go a long way. 

Collect evidence and report to the platform. If the person continues to behave badly online, collect evidence – this can include screenshots or recordings of the sexist comments – then report them in-app. The eSafety Guide has information about how to report on common gaming platforms.

Learn more about being an upstander.

Collect evidence. This can include screenshots of false posts made in your name or threatening messages you received from the hacker beforehand. 

Log yourself out of all devices and reset your passwords immediately. Logging out will log everyone out too, including the person who has your account. Once you do this, you can log in on a trusted device and change your password.

Delete any embarrassing posts or hurtful messages. If the hacker has shared anything pretending to be you, it’s a good idea to post an explanation about what’s happened.

Report it to the platform. They can take action against the hacker, including suspending or deleting their account. 

Talking with Kids Helpline (for 5 to 25 year-olds) or another confidential counselling or support service may make it easier to deal with the impact.

Updated October 2022