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In my 25 years of psychology practice, I have treated many kids and teens victimized by online predators and cyberbullies. And in many of those cases, there were steps the parents could have made to prevent this type of digital injury. First, parents must block inappropriate games and content using the rating system and parental controls. Second, teach the red flags that kids must look for to spot dangerous inquiries. That’s why I created the Cybersecurity and Red Flags Supplement to add to our free Connected Family Screen Agreement (available on the home page of GetKidsInternetSafe.com). Finally, maintain a close parent-child relationship with ongoing topics for learning (offered in your GKIS weekly articles). To help, parents have to learn what’s out there and accept that kids will make mistakes. Today’s article will discuss the risks in the multiplayer gaming world, expertly written by a young female gamer.

What is a multiplayer game?

Multiplayer games” refers to video games where an individual player can join a team in defeating a computerized enemy or can battle it out against other gamers. To play multiplayer games, Xbox and PlayStation require gamers to purchase memberships.

Battle Royale Style of Gaming

Battle royale is a relatively new genre of multiplayer gaming that can have over 100 people competing on a large map. These games embody a survival element as players are dropped onto a map with little armor or weapons. Players can either battle their way through the game with friends or fight solo. The ultimate goal is to be the last player standing.

Before the likes of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, battle royale was a concept heavily influenced by the popular movie The Hunger Games. In the early days, the only way to play battle royale was by downloading modifies to a base game. This modification was extremely popular in Minecraft as it added an extra dose of flair and made the game more challenging and intriguing.

Brenden Greene made battle royale mods for the hit games DayZ and Arma III, which quickly became huge sensations. In 2017, he released PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which paved the way for other games like Fortnite and Apex Legends.[3]

Who plays multiplayer games?

In 2018, 28% of gamers were under 18 years old, 45% of gamers were female, and 55% were male.[5] Although multiplayer games are entertaining and fast-paced, there are dangers young gamers could be exposed to including chatting with random strangers, bullying, and child grooming by sexual predators.

Create a party for you and your friends.

One of the ways kids can gain access to voice chat over the PS4 console is to be invited via “party.” Party directly sets up friend invites using your friends list. People can also request to join a party, but the creator has the option to deny specific player access. On PlayStation, the creator must specify whether the party is private or open to the public. Opening to the public will allow anyone to join the voice chat, meaning child players could be exposed to bad actors.[4]

Xbox one has the same features, except if the person receiving the invite does not accept it within a five-minute window, Xbox Live will cancel the invitation, and the person who sent the request will have to resend it.[5]  Voice chat can be a great way for socially isolated or anxious kids to connect with others. However, there are dangers as well.

Meeting Strangers in the Lobby

A lobby is where players wait to join a team game in multiplayer games. This feature is also known as matchmaking because it randomly assigns players to teams.

While in the lobby, you can communicate with other joining players. In some instances, you can also check out what the other player characters look like and view their cache of weapons. You can also communicate with other players in the lobby if you have the microphone enabled.

When I play multiplayer games, I disable the microphone feature (mainly by not plugging my headset in), unless I am playing with friends because, even as an adult, I don’t feel comfortable chatting with strangers online.

Bullying, Abuse, and Harassment

People can be cruel over voice chat for no reason. Insulting gaming skills or using racial slurs and sexual comments are typical. I’ve been in lobbies where players threaten to find and kill you as a form of intimidation. Younger kids seem to get the brunt of it.

While scouring the Internet for answers as to why kids are harassed on gaming platforms, I came across blogs and forums dedicated to how annoying young children can be online. A majority of these posts were made by people in their late teens or older. One of the biggest complaints is the profanity and racist comments from younger gamers. While many gamers just hit the mute button, some will take it to the extreme and harass the younger kid until they leave.

As a female gamer, I’ve experienced an unbelievable amount of harassment and abuse, ranging from people calling me names to more extreme measures like asking for sexual favors or making inappropriate noises.


According to ABC News, predators are grooming kids by making friends with them online and then gaining their trust so that they can meet in person. Fox News has also reported that Fortnite has recently become a favorite place to target young kids because of the volume of people who are playing online all at once.

The interactions between the young child and the predators are not always sexual. For instance, Breck Bednar was 14 years old and loved to play video games with a tight-knit group of people. The only person that was unknown to the group was Lewis Daynes, an adult who developed a strong relationship with Bednar over time. This chilling and disturbing “friendship” came to an end when Daynes lured Bednar to his home and killed him.[6]

Parental Features on Gaming Consoles

There are many ways to keep child gamers safe while playing video games and many of these features are available on the gaming console itself.

PlayStation 4 Parental Features[7]

Xbox One Parental Features[8]

  • Restrict access to certain tv shows, movies, games, and apps
  • Web filtering
  • Parents can determine what type of apps can be downloaded

Tips to keep child gamers safe!

  • Use parental features.
  • Pay attention to the rating guide on video games. Avoid mature-rated games for kids and teens.
  • Use anonymous and masculine or gender neutral Gamertags.
  • Inform kids about the importance of not sharing personal information while online.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers.
  • And connect better with your child and set up your home for screen safety using our Screen Safety Essentials Course.

Thank you to CSUCI intern, Kassidy Simpson for providing parents with the information they need to help keep their kids safe on multiplayer games.  If you learned something fun from this article, please “like” our GetKidsInternetSafe Facebook page so other parents can find us!

Want to learn more about the dangers of video games? Check out Sex and Violence in Video Games Change the Brain: What GKIS Parent Need to Know.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] PlayStation®Plus 12-Month Membership. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://store.playstation.com/en-us/product/IP9101-NPIA90005_01-1YEARPACKAGE0000

[3] Hornshaw, P., & Hornshaw, P. (2019, February 28). From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened. Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/history-of-battle-royale-games/

[4] Joining a party. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://manuals.playstation.net/document/en/ps4/party/join.html

Katersky, A. (2012, April 5). Online Gaming Is Becoming Predator’s Playground. Retrieved February 12, 2019, fromhttps://abcnews.go.com/US/online-gaming-predators-playground/story?id=16081873

Nath, D. (September 17). Fox on Tech: Predators using online games, FBI warns. Retrieved February 12, 2019, fromhttps://www.foxnews.com/tech/fox-on-tech-predators-using-online-games-fbi-warns

[5] U.S. average age of video gamers 2018 | Statistic. (29018, May). Retrieved February 12, 2019, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/189582/age-of-us-video-game-players-since-2010

[6] Moore, A. (2016, January 23). I couldn’t save my child from being killed by an online predator. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/23/breck-bednar-murder-online-grooming-gaming-lorin-lafave

[7] PS4: Family Management and Parental Controls. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, fromhttps://support.playstation.com/s/article/PS4-Parental-Controls?language=en_US

[5] Xbox Live chat on the Xbox 360 console. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-360/xbox-live/chat

[2]  Buy Xbox Live Gold. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2019, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/xbox-live-gold/CFQ7TTC0K5DJ/000G?rtc=1&activetab=pivot:overviewtab

[7] How to manage play time controls. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/get-help/help-library/my-account/parental-controls/play-time-settings/

[8] About the core family safety features of Xbox One. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/security/core-family-safety-features#e1f06038f2184dac80b0167174e26e4e

Photo Credit

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