For many women playing online games, the experience is less than enjoyable. Female gamers may love the games, but other players can make life a living hell with sexist abuse.

A recent Guardian story detailed one woman gamer’s experiences, ranging from low level insults, to unwanted sexual advances from another player. To avoid similar problems, she has developed a range of safeguards, from pretending to be a boy, through to simply not participating in the in-game chat between players.

Obviously the real problem is unreasonable behaviour by male players, and this is where real change needs to take place. In the meantime, female gamers will need to take steps to better protect themselves.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe online.

1. Understand the game’s reporting system

Most games now offer a system for reporting abuse, allowing the game operator to intervene when “banter” becomes unreasonable. Usually this will be a button marked “Report Abuse”, although this will vary between games and websites.

You should make sure you know how to report abuse before you start playing online. Many platforms may ask for additional evidence to help them investigate a report, such as taking a picture of what is shown on your screen (known as a screenshot):

For an Apple computer, hold down Shift + CMD (⌘) + 3 – a picture will be saved to your desktop.

For a Windows PC, hold down Alt + Prt Scr – the picture can be found under This PC -> Pictures -> Screenshots

2. Use the reporting system

Some major platforms like Xbox Live use real time monitoring to detect abusive language, and block trolls automatically – but many do not. These automated systems are not fool-proof either, so you must report abuse – otherwise the troll is free to abuse you and other players.

The sooner you report abuse, the quicker it will be dealt with.

3. Stay calm, don’t react

Once you have reported another player for abuse, you should avoid communicating with them again. Many trolls enjoy upsetting other people and making them feel bad, but you should never get into an argument with them.

Stay calm, and let the reporting process complete. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of an investigation, or are concerned that nothing is being done, contact the games provider’s support helpline. Remember that an investigation may take longer than you expect.

4. Install a PC security tool

Some trolls will go even further, stalking and harassing their victims outside the game. They may attack via social media, or even try and hack their computer, looking for sensitive personal data that they can use to embarrass or threaten their victims.

To protect yourself against these people, always ensure you have an anti-malware tool installed on your computer. This will detect and block hackers, keeping your data safe. Download Panda Free Antivirus to get started now. You can also learn more about using social media safely in this guide.

Be prepared and be sensible

For women who do fall victim to trolls, it may feel as though they are not receiving proper protection online. Unfortunately this means that until games companies start taking these threats more seriously, female gamers will need to protect themselves.