October is Educators in VR’s Third Annual Cyberbullying Month hosting and supporting events throughout the month covering a wide spectrum of topics related to cyberbullying and VR, gaming, and online harassment and intimidation.
This year, the Cyberbullying Team Project has brought in leaders in esports, conflict resiliency, and expert VR event hosts to share their insights, philosophies, tips, technique, and knowledge on how to prevent, respond, report, and support those involved in cyberbullying incidents.
Over the past three years, we’ve shared a variety of research and resources on cyberbullying, including a great infographic on social VR bystander intervention by Jessica Outlaw, and hosted events with tips, techniques, tactics, research, and more to help you understand more about how cyberbullying works and how to respond.
This year’s focus is not just on what to do in cyberbullying situations, but also how to be more inclusive and responsive to those who bully. Currently, bullies tend to be accepted, ignored, or excluded, most often blocked, thus not incentivized to modify their behavior. Most VR games and social platforms offer tools to support those practices. Yet, an inclusive metaverse experience and environment should offer a way to help those whoa redeemable, who don’t understand that they did something wrong, don’t know the etiquette, or have trouble fitting in, so choose aggressive posturing. It’s important to understand the nature of social VR and gaming and change the culture, and encourage platforms and developers to support these efforts.
As the Cyberbullying Team researched and prepared the events listed below, we realized that there are 5 groups impacted by cyberbullying events.
- The bullied person
- The attacker/bully (individual/group)
- Responder/Authority (recipient of the report)
- Support system (friends, family, therapists, etc.)
Now into our second year of the pandemic, 20% more time is spent on social media with a strong increase in multi-player VR games and social VR. Research studies report that 21% of children between 10 and 18 have already been cyberbullied in some way. As of January 2020, 44% of all US Internet users say they’ve experienced online harassment, and reports found that 38% of people globally experience cyberbullying on social media daily, with non-US students and self-identified people experiencing more cyberbullying than US citizens. Cyberbullying impacts teenagers, with reports of them feeling angry, hurt, and scared, often changing their behavior and personalities, with a reported 25% of young adults twice as likely to self-harm. We also know that those who are bullied are more likely to become bullies and engage in violent behavior.
The impact of cyberbullying reaches wider than to just the bullied person. While you or someone you know may not have been a victim of bullying or cyberbullying, almost everyone has been a bystander, a witness, to a bullying event in their lifetime. For bystanders, the feeling of helplessness, confusion, frustration, fear, and anger, causing physical, emotional, and psychological distress.
While this is a serious subject with many layers, it is our goal to encourage individuals, groups, games, and platforms, and the future metaverse, to ensure it is a safe place for all and to understand how we may all contribute to a better society in general.
Guest Speakers and Hosts
Our Cyberbullying Team and expert guests represent the diversity of VR gaming and social multi-player communities.
Sonya Haskins is a consultant, VR events organizer, and founder of VR Community Builders, a non-profit organization that promotes positive, inclusive environments. Formerly a professional VR esports player, she was the first female player to qualify for the VR League North American Regional Championships in 2017. Sonya has authored 8 books and writes frequently about immersive reality for publications such as VR Fitness Insider, AR Post, and Gaming Trend.
Ruth Diaz, Psy.D. Community Design Consultant, Leadership Coach, and Conflict Resiliency Trainer, is a social scientist, organizational consultant, and innovator on conflict resiliency in VR culture. She is the new Educators in VR Cyberbullying Team Project Leader and founder of VR Create|Connect, a growing network of VR enthusiasts who connect diverse contributors and creators to create transformative and inclusive events in social VR applications. Also known as rcdegs in multiple VR applications, Ruth is an environmental story teller, has built over 100 worlds, and is passionate about all technology mediums that help us become better versions of ourselves as humans individually and collectively.
Stevieboy is the co-founder of We Are ImproVR. We Are ImproVR produces some of the longest running event production teams with interactive events including Improv Night, A Thing in a Place, Late Night with You, Fake News, and others. Stevie produced VR events for over 4 years as a host, moderator, manager, producer, and event developer.
GabrielaE is an educator and the Educators in VR Team Manager managing 20 special interest groups, and an AltspaceVR Community Helper and presenter & developer of AltspaceVR’s first Spanish speaking AltspaceVR 101 (Introduccion a AltspaceVR), and founding member of Netizens Hispanoparlantes, the Spanish speaking Discord to support social VR.
Lorelle VanFossen is co-founder and director of Educators in VR and a long-time advocate, trainer, and expert in sexual assault prevent education online and in person, and producer of over 800 VR events annually.
Cyberbullying Events Schedule
Already this month, we’ve had an open discussion with CaptainVR Dana-Faneker and the vCoaching Team about the impact of cyberbullying in our lives and helping to change attitudes of those who bully and intimidate. The October 8th event, “Gamers Speak Out on Cyberbullying,” a panel discussion with VR gamers about the harassment and intimidation that impacts players, especially female players, and the grassroots movement to change the toxic environment to be one of respect and sportsmanship.
October 12 – State of Social VR features Sonya Haskins sharing her insights on the state of social VR in regards to safe play spaces, cyberbullying, and harassment protections and defenses. We’ll explore industry standards, responses, demographics, expectations, assumptions, stereotyping and profiling, trolling, and overall statistics on the health, welfare, and bullying responses of the gaming, esports, and social VR industry in general.
October 13 – Surviving Interactive Events features Stevie sharing his expertise in hosting and managing highly interactive and engaging events to discuss tips & techniques for engagement with the audience, how to deal with disruptions, and determining if a participant is redeemable or trolling.
October 20 – VR Event Hosts Speak Out is hosted by Stevie of We Are ImproVR and Lorelle of Educators in VR along with event hosts from your favorite, long-running VR events in AltspaceVR to discuss how they manage interactive and engaging events and respond to disruptions and trolls. Hosts include Chris from the LGBTQ+ & Friends, Don and Ashley from Improv Night, Open Mic, A Thing in a Place, and hosts of Educators in VR events and Team Projects.
October 21 – Cyberbullying in Virtual Schooling with EDVR Virtual Schooling Team presents a series of virtual schooling scenarios on the ENGAGE XR VR platform for teachers, parents, and students to learn how to recognize cyberbullying in virtual schooling scenarios.
October 22 – Building a Positive Supportive Community features Sonya Haskins and Ruth Dias discussing building a positive support community in social VR and esports gaming, developing the standards, guidelines, and community practices that foster respect and sportsmanship.
October 27 – How to be a Powerful VR Player features Sonya Haskins and GabrielaE for a discussion on how to be a powerful, and empowered, VR player in esports, multi-player games, and social VR. Gaming and esports is a great way to build self-confidence and empowerment, especially for female players. Sonya and GabrielaE and the team speak for the thousands of female players with a strong desire to create a safe space to play.
October 29 – Cyberbullying: Know Your Rights is hosted by Sonya Haskins and Lorelle of Educators in VR to discuss your rights to protect, report, and manage cyberbullying incidents. What are your rights to protect yourself and others? Are they different for various VR games & social VR platforms? How do the laws protect you? Bring your questions and we may have some answers.
Other Educators in VR Teams will likely host events with a cyberbullying perspective. Please join our Educators in VR Discord for more information and check out the events on our Events Calendar. If you are new to social VR and Educators in VR, we have information to help you attend our events and invite you to become a member to support our more than 600 free and public educational events annually.