Online safety has been vexing educators, parents and law enforcers for years, with students swamped with lectures and courses on online grooming and cyber bullying. But how about teaching them through their world—the world of games?
Angeline Khoo, Associate Professor at National Institute of Education Singapore, told FutureGov Asia Pacific: “Perhaps one way of engaging youth is through online activities—given them safety tips in the context of online engagement such as gaming.”
Youths may listen more to their leaders of their ‘guild’—a group formed by gamers—than adults who are non-gamers, Angeline suggested. The social psychologist had the idea while playing World of Warcraft (WoW) herself.
While playing the game, her avatar ran into a widely disliked guild member who was “rejected by guild members because he was boastful and obnoxious”. Through a conversation with Khoo, the boy came to realise that his attitude was isolating him. Later on, “he started helping others without boasting” and guild members reported his change to Khoo.
“You should always meet people in a place in which they are most comfortable,” Khoo said. “Some people who are addicted to gaming go into it for solace and they find it hard to pry themselves away from the game for face-to-face counselling.”
“Also, when you only see each other’s avatars and usernames, there is a lot more self-disclosure.”
This line of thought is not unique. At the end of 2009, Psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham sent therapists into WoW to provide in-game therapy services for young gamers who had become addicted to the game. Graham’s reason being: “The game addicts can be more easily found online than in person.”
According to Khoo, people immerse themselves in games not only for “fighting people and creatures”. A game world is exactly like a social world where talking goes on and friendships are forged.
Apart from discussions on healthy gaming, Khoo suggested using such in-game counselling to combat cyber bullying where if a gamer acts aggressively while playing, other gamers can intervene and comment on that behaviour.
Khoo explained: “Having comments come from a gamer’s community lends it more impact. Also, the response would be immediate and relevant.”
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