When Hodgenville Police Chief John Cottrill received a call to investigate a possible threat Thursday at LaRue County High School, he assumed he would be dealing with a handwritten letter.
Instead, he learned a student had been playing an interactive video game at his home and became concerned at comments made by another online player. The student reported the incident to Principal Paul Mullins who turned the matter over to police.
Cottrill and Mullins agree it was the right move.
“By the time most police departments hear about things like this, there has already been a death or abduction,” Cottrill said. “I’m glad this boy came forward when he did.”
Mullins said the teen was reluctant to talk about the situation, but three other students who also had been playing the military game backed him up.
The student said he had been playing the game with another online player who uses the nickname “Pain” about a month. The Xbox Live system allows players to talk to other players via a headset.
The game play became “intense,” Cottrill said, and Pain began making sexual comments.
The comments “kept getting more weird,” Cottrill said.
The student “cut him off” from the game. When the teen arrived at school, he decided to report the situation.
“It was on the boy’s mind that he needed to tell someone,” Cottrill said.
Incidents like these are becoming more commonplace, according to StopCyberbullying.org. The Web site defines cyberbullying as online harassment of a child by another juvenile.
Cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is online harassment by an adult.
In either case, the victim is “tormented, threatened, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted,” according to the Web site.
Cottrill has just started his investigation – and is considering forwarding the complaint to interstate authorities.
It’s not known if Pain is an adult or juvenile – or if he is a cyberbully, also refferrd to as a “griefer," or a sexual predator. The LCHS student believes Pain lives in Michigan.
“You know how the Internet is – he could be in South Africa or down the street,” Cottrill said.
A cyberstalking incidence that began with an online game made headlines in January in Washington. A 20-year-old Halo player drove 40 hours to threaten to rape two girls, aged 15 and 6, who he met playing the online game, according to the Times Union newspaper.
The man, Joshua R. Stetar of New York now faces five years in jail for stalking.
Tips for dealing with online grief
Griefers are the Internet equivalent of playground bullies, who find fun in embarrassing and pushing around others. They taunt, use inappropriate language, cheat or harass. Players say only a small percentage of the video-gaming community qualify as griefers.
Xbox manufacturer Microsoft offers 10 tips for dealing with griefers:
1. Ignore them.
2. Change game options.
3. Create a private game that permits only friends to play.
4. Play on sites with enforceable codes of conduct or terms of service and live game administrators.
5. Take a break and come back later.
6. Report game glitches that enable the griefer to cheat.
7. Play games that limit griefers.
8. Don’t use the griefer’s tactics in dealing with him.
9. Don’t use provocative nicknames.
10. Don’t give out personal information.