Stop Bullying, Make It Personal
I used to occupy my overactive mind by playing an RPG with my mom called Smallworlds. In short, you build a custom avatar and interact with a complete, virtual world, including other players, in real time. I especially enjoyed this game because other than the break from reality, it was another outlet for me to flex my creativity. There is more to do than just building characters and settings. You can actually create “missions.” In these missions, other players basically play out stories you write to earn tokens and XP.
There were some very nice people on this game. I made a few really great friends. I felt as strongly about these friends as the ones I have made from tweeting and blogging.
There were also some not very nice people. As with all scenarios where people gather in a casual and social manner, there were trolls and bullies. I can not stand to see people bullied, whether in real life or online.
As I was doing some virtual shopping in a garden shop, I notice a small group of people harassing everyone who walked by them. Even though the game has a default censor in place for public areas, people are creative. The name calling and harassment was mean and uncalled for. After observing for a bit, I decided to conduct a little social experiment. I switched to a different avatar (you are able to create 4 or 5 on one account) and returned to the shop.
Without all my extra’s that marked me as an advanced player (wings, hover board, fangs etc), I became an easy target. They pounced on me as soon as I walked by. Calling me names and “virtually” jumping my character. I stayed and interacted with them for a bit. I remained mostly on the offensive.
After I had enough of their malice, I retreated and switched back to my regular avatar. When I returned to the same shop I observed one of the girls, the ring leader, begging for tokens (in world currency) and I proceeded to advise her all the ways she could earn her own. I taught her some tricks of the game and shared some of my favorite spots. After this exchange, I asked her if she thought I had been kind and helpful.
She said, “Oh yes, you are so very nice!”
I reminded her of all the things she and her friends had said to me and others earlier. I went on to tell her a little about my life raising a child with special needs. I told her, and her group, that many people on the game, play it to get an escape from stressful or even sad lives.
I explained the dangers of bullying and cited some examples of bullying gone too far. Such as school shootings and suicides that are cases of “bullied to death”. The kids (yeah, they were teens, they confessed) then began to share bits of their own lives. After the exchange, they were very contrite and offered apologies to myself and others still in the shop.
I explained the theory of karma that comes into play on the game. When you do good it comes back to you, just as in life.
I would like to think that this lesson really landed with these kids and that I made a difference, even in a small way.
Bullying is a very real threat to our children and it is our responsibility to educate others anywhere possible.Bullying is a very real threat to our children and it is our responsibility to educate others anywhere possible. Click To Tweet
Are you or someone you love being bullied? There is help, here is just one of many resources: The Boys Town National Hotline.
Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy,