SINGAPORE – When it comes to video games, how do you know if your child is being bullied or just making a fuss?

Parents should pay attention to both scenarios, as symptoms from either can escalate into negative consequences, according to experts at a focus group discussion among parents, industry players and online safety advocates.

They were gathered to discuss matters of online safety in gaming on Feb 13 at the National Library Building in Victoria Street following the launch of Singapore’s first youth online gaming survey by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

Harmful behaviours in online games can come in various forms, said Ms Anita Low-Lim, who is the chief transformation officer at Touch Community Services. These include ostracising children because they are not as good as other gamers, being sworn at or actively bullied.

“When you’re not picked as a team player, the sense of rejection is difficult for young people,” said Ms Low-Lim.

She added that parents should pay attention when their children show signs like keeping to themselves abruptly.

Institute of Policy Studies principal research fellow Carol Soon said she is concerned that such harms become normalised online if young gamers and their parents do not know how to respond.

“We should see bullying from the perspective of the victim and not what we think is acceptable,” said Dr Soon.

“(They can be) subject to coercive bullying by a group or name-calling. What we think is OK might not be comfortable for young people.”

But young people and their parents seem to be unaware about what to do when faced with harmful behaviour online, she said, referring to the survey, which found that most parents were not fully aware of what their children were up to in online games. Only half could give an accurate estimate of how much time their child spent online; one in four parents were completely oblivious about who their child gamed with.

Roughly half of the 810 children and teens who responded said that they do not take action, such as reporting a user, when they encounter bad behaviour.

In a speech to close the forum, Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo urged parents to have open conversations with their children about gaming to build trust.

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