Cyberbullying Project Team Meetups

NEST logo.In 2019, Educators in VR honored Cyberbullying and National Bullying Month with multiple events and resources to help our members and community understand how to respond to cyberbullying. We will be repeating that month-long series in October 2020. Over the past few weeks, AltspaceVR and other social VR and online platforms have faced cyber-crime attacks.

We are thrilled to revitalize our Cyberbullying Team Project to open up discussions about this issue from a variety of vantage points, from real-world to virtual, with Erica Siegal, beginning this Wednesday, July 8, in AltspaceVR with our free Cyberbullying Project Event.

Erica Siegal, known as ZenPanda, is a therapist and founder of NEST, Network of Emotional Support Teams, specializing in harm reduction training, prevention, and consulting to organizations and individuals with direct and indirect experiences of trauma and prevention. As a harm reduction provider, Erica offers services and trainings that address the most common and the most serious issues that impact organizations and teams, including assault, harassment, sexual assault, interpersonal conflict, altered states & substance use, staff burnout & compassion fatigue, communicating consent & boundaries through preparedness training, crisis response, informed consent training, staff wellness education, compassionate leadership training, and mediation and peer-to-peer support.

PandaNEST has an amazing line-up of topics and experts for these weekly sessions. She will bring to these weekly meetups and workshops covering the above topics and more, helping you learn how to provide support and resources through compassionate leadership, but also to understand the complexities associated with all forms of bullying and intimidation so you can better support yourself, your family, co-workers, and your community.

We invite you to suggest topics for discussion and guest speakers in our Discord #cyberbullying team channel. If you would like to get involved and help support this team project, please join us there and be a part of the discussion.

With recent cyber-crime attacks in AltspaceVR and other virtual platforms, as well as the increase in troll activity as more and more people move into the social VR community, now is the time to explore this topic and we’re so excited to have PandaNEST on board!

Expect these sessions to touch upon sensitive areas. Please remember, these are NOT therapy sessions but may serve as support, sharing, and resource access opportunities.

Team project event in AltspaceVR.Educators in VR is dedicated to providing educational events, trainings, and workshops for educators and learners to prepare them for the future of spatial technologies in education. We offer weekly workshops, socials, and special events in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other platforms featuring key educators, trainers, and developers in VR, AR, XR, and MR technology and education.

Educators in VR Team Projects are lead by experts in their field of study and interest and are designed to bring together others passionate about these topics and the spatial technologies and industries represented. We have team projects on language learning arts, virtual coaching and self-development, math, science, cultural heritage preservation, and so much more. We’d love for you to be involved and maybe lead your own team project.

Consider joining one of our many team projects, and if you have the time, consider becoming a volunteer and support Educators in VR activities and events. If you would like to present at one of our weekly workshops, please submit your speaker’s proposal to us. If you have questions or need more information, please contact us or connect with one of our many social media channels.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information on workshops and how to become more involved. Consider subscribing to our Educators in VR event subscription channel to receive regular reminders of upcoming events there. We publish member brags and news you can use about virtual reality in education across the entire spectrum of usage from childhood education to health and science to corporate.

To Attend Educators in VR Events in AltspaceVR

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on the event from our channel and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. AltspaceVR, like other virtual platforms, require an account for access.

You may attend using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is available for Oculus Go, Quest, and Rift, HTC Vive (Steam), and Windows Mixed Reality users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the 2D version for use on your Windows desktop computer. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes may be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.

Cyberbullying Month: Resources and Research

Educators in VR is recognizing Cyberbullying Month all October. We have three events lined up for you. Tuesday, October 15, is Daniel Dyboski-Bryant and special guest Lucas Rizzotto, award-winning director and pioneering VR and AR storyteller, developer of “Where Thoughts Go,” the successful virtual storytelling creation app. They will be discussing using empathy in VR to build awareness and sensitivity training for educators and learners, and beyond. On Tuesday, October 29, Educators in VR will be presenting a special program to conclude Cyberbullying Month, and Thursday, October 17, is a special Cyberbullying Panel Discussion hosted by veteran Virtual Communities Consultant, John Williams (JayW) and representatives of the AltspaceVR Staff and Community including special guest Keegan Law, the Program Owner of AltspaceVR. We will be discussing and sharing insights on cyberbullying in virtual reality.

John Williams and Lorelle VanFossen gathered information and resources for you in support of Cyberbullying Month.


Virtual harassment and bullying isn’t new. Julia K. Ferganchick-Neufang published “Virtual Harassment: Women and Online Education” in February 1998, tackling the issue of student aggression toward female instructors online even before Second Life was launched in 2003.

The “virtual” aspect of virtual reality creates a distance that makes it easy for us to ignore the very real human communication and interaction of such spaces. If we are to challenge these abusive attacks from students and the passive-acceptance of this behavior from administrators, we need to work collectively to convince others, including program administrators, to take us seriously. Student aggression, whether it takes place in writing, in person, or online, is a violation that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment; it is harassment and must be treated as such.

…I do not believe that virtual space is either evil or inherently masculine and patriarchal. What bother me is not the medium, but the lack of attention paid to how that medium may perpetuate sexism and violence against women. I agree with Lari Kendall who says, “the online environment is not itself a solution. Understandings of gender and the hierarchical arrangements based on these understandings do not simply disappear in forums where we can’t see each other. We carry these understandings with us and re-create them online. Therefore, the appearance of more women on MUDs, and online generally, is likely to help only if both women and men make specific efforts to counter…stereotypical understandings.”

This article highlights the negative side of virtual reality, but know that it is statistically a low risk. Depending upon the game or the social VR app, community standards, moderators, and the community itself tends to self-police in a way that represents their goals for the community.

AltspaceVR, for example, is one of the oldest immersive social VR platforms, and has a multi-prong approach to community standards and violations. Their terms of service and AltspaceVR’s Community Standards were designed with community in mind. Not that people read them when creating an account, but the community standards are reinforced by the AltspaceVR 101 30-minute tutorial recommended to newcomers, and through the volunteer Community Helper program of experienced community members helping other members through positive example and mentorship and supportive events. They are aided by the Community Support Team members in the campfire “lobby” to ensure a tolerant and inclusive community.

To begin our dive into cyberbullying and virtual reality, let’s begin with the example of the Community Standards by AltspaceVR as it is an example to other social VR platforms and games, and may serve as a good example for VR in your classroom and school.

Defamation and Intolerance

AltspaceVR is an international community of users that come from many different cultural backgrounds. Each community member has their own individual background, cultural practices, accents and mannerisms, belief structure and reasons for being in VR. As a community that is enriched by this multi-cultural environment, there will be no tolerance for bigotry regarding any user’s race, nationality, spiritual beliefs, physical abilities or sexual orientation. Any language that is meant to defame or injure another user will result in an immediate suspension and determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.

Harassment

A healthy community is rooted in the shared understanding that everyone is entitled to feel and express whether something is offensive or uncomfortable for them. When a user chooses to ignore this and continue to aim the uncomfortable behavior at that person, it is perceived as Harassment. If another community member expresses that something makes them uncomfortable, it is your responsibility to cease that behavior in the presence of them. Continued harassing behavior will result in a suspension and subsequent determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.

Cyber-Bullying and Intimidation

While Cyber-Bullying is regarded as being an issue affecting teens and pre-teens, we are including it as part of the Community Standards so that we make it clear that any form of intimidation levied against another user be it on the AltspaceVR platform or on any social media or forum site managed by Microsoft, shall be considered grounds for suspension or account termination.

As with all such documents, it is a living document, shifting and changing as the needs of the virtual community’s needs change.

Here are some other examples of terms of service and community policies for social VR platforms.

Behind Every Avatar is a Real Person

Behind the cartoon avatar, it’s easy to forget that you are standing with real people with real emotions, sensitivities, anxieties, history and experiences.

The avatars are just masks, malleable, easily changed, sporting a robot or human-style presentation customizable to anything including green skin, red hair, purple eyes, and black shirt and pants with green shoes. Gender, sexual preference, personal characteristics disappear behind these avatars, or are enhanced by choice to represent the real person or their creative spirit or life choices. Just as in the real world, bullying over skin color, disfigurements, tattoos, and any physical differences is unacceptable. Even with limitations in avatar construction, people’s appearance choices are to be honored and respected.

Virtual reality allows you to be you without physical insecurities getting in the way. Avatars may become extensions of the users, their mind and heart embodied. Such fragile selves need protection in VR and the real world to be allowed to explore, develop relationships, and blossom. Continue reading

Infographic on Social VR Bystander Intervention: Five Useful Tactics

Jessica Outlaw of The Extended Mind: Culture and Behavior in XR spoke at our last Educators in VR meetup and discussed VR communities and bullying, harassment, and learning to cope with social interactions in virtual reality. She has shared with us her infographic on Social VR Bystander Intervention: Five Useful Tactics to help us not only learn how to deal with cyberbullying in VR education, but to teach our students.

infographic on Social VR Bystander Intervention: Five Useful Tactics.

Check out the rest of her resources at The Extended Mind: Culture and Behavior in XR.

Jessica Outlaw at Next Educators in VR Meetup

February 21, 2019, is the next meeting of Educators in VR in AltspaceVR. We are very honored to feature Jessica Outlaw of The Extended Mind: Culture and Behavior in XR to discuss VR communities and bullying, harassment, and learning to cope with social interactions in virtual reality.

Jessica’s research has had a profound impact on the virtual reality industry, helping us all understand the realities of VR bullying and harassment and how to develop tools and community guidelines. She provides workshops and trainings to the virtual reality and online communities industry. Here are a few examples of her work in action.

Come join us February 21, 2019, in AltspaceVR for an informative discussion on this critical topic.

We meet in AltspaceVR, a free virtual reality social app and community. You may RSVP on our events page and AltspaceVR will send you a reminder an hour before the event. Alan has also built several worlds in AltspaceVR that attract a wide range of visitors, developing innovative virtual entertainment and meeting spaces.

You may attend as a guest or member using the free AltspaceVR mobile app or 2D version. AltspaceVR is found in the Google Store for DayDream, Samsung Gear, in the Steam Store for HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Store for Rift, Go, and Quest users. If you do not have a VR device, you may also install the mobile version for use on your Android phone or tablet, or the desktop computer version for 2D access. A headset and microphone (quality earbuds acceptable) is required to participate. Otherwise please stay muted during the event as the background noise and echoes can be disruptive. For more information on accessing and installing AltspaceVR, check out their download web page.