While I play online games on a fairly regular basis, I only occasionally experience verbal harassment. For the most part I play one on one games, and sometimes if I am ahead, or if I’ve gotten lucky, my opponent will become abusive. Doesn’t usually bother me, and in fact I usually just mute the other person if they start being annoying.
I have participated in this abuse on a couple of occasions, but very rarely and only in response to my opponent acting that way in the first place. After a long losing streak, I will begin to get frustrated, as many people would. If my opponent starts with that abuse then, as I’m already angry, I’m more likely to lash back at them. As I said however, I am much more likely to just mute them.
I think when abuse happens, it is most often for the same reason I have participated. In a competitive setting where emotions are running high and people are full of adrenaline, many people will be more inclined to lash out, and oftentimes this takes the form of blaming others rather than accept they are losing. In team based games, some players will often abuse their teammates instead of the opponent. Again, the competitive environment fueling extreme emotions can lead players to blame their teammates for every mistake, no matter whose fault it really is.
I would be less tolerant of this sort of behavior in the real world. In the game, it is much easier to deal with the abuse since you can easily mute the other player and be done with it, but unfortunately no such button exists in the real world. Having to actually deal with people face to face makes this abuse more hurtful, but for most people it also makes it much harder to do. There is a huge difference between anonymously abusing someone to looking them in the eye and doing the same.
Schools shouldn’t address these issues, at the high-school level anyway, because it doesn’t really have anything to do with school. If some program was put in to place, it wouldn’t be taken seriously in the slightest. In elementary schools however, guidance on how to behave online could be appropriate. Similar “real world” behavioral practices are already part of the elementary school curriculum, and having something in place to reflect our increasingly internet focused culture could be of great benefit.