The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term troll is probably the popular toy of the nineties, fully equipped with colorful hair and a star in place of a belly button. Unfortunately, an internet troll isn’t quite so cute. Internet trolls have more in common with the unfriendly creatures of Scandinavian folklore who dwell in isolated places. Rather than hiding in caves, online trolls hide behind their computer screens posting rude, inflammatory comments in an attempt to provoke an emotional response from others. It’s an unfortunate reality that even children are not immune to facing. In fact, trolling has become so common that 82 percent of youth admit to witnessing online hate in the past year alone.
It’s common for parents to talk to their children about what to do if they’re being bullied, whether it’s online or in the schoolyard. However, parents often forget to talk to their children about not becoming the bully themselves. There’s a fine line between innocent teasing and online trolling, and it’s crucial children know the difference. The school-age act of online bullying has the potential to expand into full-blown trolling by the time they reach adolescence, especially if a child is never confronted about it.
What Does Trolling Look Like?
Online trolling can take many forms, including sending threatening messages, sharing negative images, creating and sharing false images, creating fake accounts, or hacking into someone’s accounts. In extreme cases, online trolls even set up websites or groups dedicated to embarrassing an individual or group of people. A recent study found that 35 percent of direct trolling experienced by youth is carried out by their peers, which can be an extension of offline bullying they’ve experienced at school.
More commonly, online trolls make themselves anonymous through the creation of fake accounts. These fake accounts can be used to disperse damaging memes, photos, or other information about the trolling victim. The most damaging thing about online trolling is the level of access trolls have to their victims. In contrast to the schoolyard bully whose ridicule ends when the school bell rings, online trolls have access to victims at all times. Just think about how often your child uses their phone or accesses social media and you can see how frequently a troll could harass your child. Young psyches are ill-equipped to deal with constant online harassment, which is why youth can make drastic decisions in order to escape. Preventing this type of behavior is crucial. No parent wants their child to be the reason that another considers harming themselves.
How Can I Prevent My Child From Becoming A Troll?
It can be difficult to explain the difference between innocent humor and emotional humiliation to a child. It’s best to use the ‘The Golden Rule‘, which is the principle of treating others the way you want to be treated. If you find evidence of your child being a cyberbully, ask them how they would feel if someone was treating them the way they’ve been treating their peer. Often, children focus more on the positive attention they are getting from peers who think their trolling is funny, rather than the emotional distress they may be inflicting on the victim. Once a child is forced to sit back and think about how they would feel if someone was bullying them, they quickly begin to understand the magnitude of what they’ve done. It’s also crucial for children to understand that emotional bullying is just as damaging, if not more so, than physically harming someone.
Online trolling is a serious issue that can have fatal consequences. In contrast to schoolyard bullying that is guaranteed to stop once the victim is in the safety of their home, online trolling can inflict damage on a child every second of the day. It is critical for children to understand the damage they can inflict while sitting behind a computer screen and the long term emotional scars that affect victims of online trolling.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.