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In various gaming and online role-playing communities I have seen very young (10-13 years old) and, what's more important, very immature users. If such a user is consistently delivering problems with their immaturity, that user is served a normal problem user treatment according to the rules, but lots of those users are only disruptive for a small part of their time, and then act normally again. They also grow up pretty fast, someone who was a chaotic evil griefer 9 months ago may be a normal person today. But, again, probably not tomorrow.

Outright banning everyone under some age threshold is not an option; it seems unfair to those who do not act stupidly even though they are young at the moment, and there is no real way to check users' age, people may lie.

"Casting" (e.g. checking if someone who wants to enter the community is capable of acting well) prevents some problems, but not all of them: again, someone acting OK today may go on a rage spree tomorrow, honestly regret it 3 days later and go on another rage spree a week after getting unbanned. Casting also takes a lot of time once a gaming community grows big and/or those responsible for casting get a life.

"Treating the users normally" means "speak to them, clean problem stuff left, if they continue to deliver problems, issue a punishment", but the point is that most of the time those kids understand that what they are doing is not good, and don't deliver problems often enough to get a permanent ban. Even if they get banned, the community loses their potentially valuable contribution, even if it means just keeping the community alive. The point is that they cannot always control their emotions.

Pre-moderating their actions is not always an option; it could be used on a forum, but not in a computer game.

So, what can I do to very immature users incapable of controlling their emotions and sometimes going on a rules violation spree and then returning to norm?

  • Detail: You mention "clean problem stuff left". If cleaning up the garbage from the 'rules violation spree' can be done by the user themselves, I would demand that as part of the action afterwards. – user732 Aug 21 '17 at 8:16
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You are trying to balance between providing a suitable community for your well-behaved users and giving users who might not yet know appropriate online social norms a second (and third and fourth...) chance. While the context is different, I think Stack Exchange's escalation system provides a good model for you to consider.

If a user does something bad once, communities (or moderators) deal with the case at hand -- delete the rude comment, edit the profanities out of the post, close the inappropriate question, etc. In the communities I'm active in, people generally try to leave a comment to educate the user, including linking to relevant documentation.

If there's a pattern of bad behavior, moderators usually send a private message to the user to say "hey, that's not cool -- we expect X, Y, and Z, here's some stuff to read, please try to do better". The user can reply to this message (once) if there are questions. As a moderator I've seen the full spectrum of responses from "oh oops, I didn't realize that's how that came across, sorry!" (with improvement) to expletive-filled instructions to do things that are physically impossible. Neither of those extremes is common, just to be clear; we get a lot in the middle, and a lot of silence.

If there continues to be a pattern of bad behavior, moderators suspend the user temporarily. Suspensions get longer with repetition. It is possible, but very very rare, for moderators to lift a suspension early.

Being suspended for a few days or a week isn't a big deal in the long run -- the user can come back and fully participate -- but it's enough to send a message in most cases, especially if you are consistent (nobody gets a pass just because he's young or a friend or whatever). I don't have statistics on repeat suspensions; they definitely happen, but in my experience many users who get suspended only get suspended once.

If you have somebody who's being a griefer now, then you don't really care if he'll snap out of it in a few months -- you don't want him being a griefer in your community now, possibly deterring your other users from full participation. Your goal is to stop the bad behavior, and warnings and suspensions are powerful tools for that goal.

If you can easily clean up the damage and temporarily interrupt the bad behavior to keep it from continuing, then you can afford to be generous in who you let in. "Casting" is expensive, and it sounds like it's unnecessary. Besides, you can model the behavior you want users to apply to each other by presuming good intent up front -- letting the unknown user join -- instead of pre-judging based on artificial factors like age and potentially excluding productive community members. (And anyway, how do you really know how old your users are?)

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  • Are you essentially saying that it is better not to offer the immature users any special treatment? – Baskakov_Dmitriy Aug 21 '17 at 10:28
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    @Baskakov_Dmitriy correct. All users, regardless of age or newness, get a progression that starts more gentle and ends in long suspensions if they don't shape up. In extraordinary circumstances ("they just found and removed that brain tumor; I"m better now") it makes sense to make exceptions, but the world is full of people who will say they didn't know better or they're young or whatever as an excuse for bad behavior. Don't tolerate the bad behavior; you're just teaching them that it's ok for them and they won't learn from it. – Monica Cellio Aug 21 '17 at 13:00
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I flag the content for moderators and make a mental note to never answer their questions.

On poker.se there are a couple kids that were rude to me and they have poker math questions. I am strong at poker math and just let their questions sit.

I don't target them with down votes but they for sure will never get an up vote from me.

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    I think, such treatment is definitely against the SE phylosophy of upvoting the post, not the user (or the score). Of course, unless you target downvote someone, you are free to do whatever you want with you votes, but I don't consider your answer good, so you get my downvote. By not answering their questions you also deprive other users who would type those questions in Google from the information you could provide (unless their questions are too localized). This makes your answer even worse. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Sep 23 '17 at 20:11
  • @Baskakov_Dmitriy Shame on me. Work for free I get to decide what I work on and not. – paparazzo Sep 23 '17 at 20:20
  • You are free to choose what you do work on and what you don't work on, but it's definitely a bad advice to act as you suggest. I am leaving this discussion. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Sep 23 '17 at 20:22

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