Tips for parents to help their child deal with online trolls by Lucy Doyle
The world is filled with wonderful and bizarre things and nice and bad people. The internet makes it possible to access all this information, even the bad. There’s a good chance your child will be active on social media and people will comment on what they post. Most comments are positive. Sometimes, they can be nasty. For example, people who disagree with something they’ve said/done may tell them in an angry or less diplomatic manner.
It is less common but more troubling for young people when someone goes out to upset or unnerve them.
Trolling is one of many negative online behaviors that your child might encounter, especially on social media, where anonymity may allow you to hurt or offend someone without consequences.
Trolling vs shaming
- Troll is a combination of the verb “to troll”, a method for fishing (trawling), as well as the monster from folklore.
- Trolls can be either the person who posts the comments or the comment itself.
- Trolls are looking for conflict. Their bait is an infuriating or even bizarre comment that’s expertly designed to upset people. They want people responding to their comments and to be involved in an infuriating and futile argument.
- Sometimes trolling and shameing can be confusing. However, there is a difference. Shaming refers to when an online group, often on social media, attacks a person or company for their behavior. Often, the attacks include insults, condemnations and threats to the victim. People can be very self-righteous and judge others harshly.
- People who shame others online don’t necessarily have to be trolls. They may argue a point that they don’t believe in, just to get someone mad. “Shamers” are people who have strong opinions on a topic and wish to harm people they don’t agree with.
- Online public shame has increased with the rise in popularity of social media platforms over the last few years.
Where can you find trolls?
Trolls prefer anonymity and to keep their online and personal lives separate. Twitter is their perfect playground. You can be anonymous but still have access to anyone with a public Twitter account. You can find them online.
The mystifying trolling culture
Trolls may say extremely offensive things, and they might even express homophobic, racist, or sexist views they don’t subscribe to, in an attempt to get people off their backs.
Trolling has become a complex internet culture, with many people aspiring to be trolls. Their primary goal seems to be to cause the most chaos possible.
There are many ways to trolling. These include tactical (where the trolling troll creates a ‘credible personality’ and slowly reels the ‘trollee in), and strategic (where the troll develops a well-thought out plan that lasts for a long time).
One website offered advice to aspiring trolls.
- “Drag [your victim] off topic – the farther off-topic, the better. You are trying to waste their time.
- “Remember…you are talking to an idiot.” You must treat them with the respect they deserve.
- “A troll’s primary mission is to create inflammatory opinions to incite discord and disharmony.”
Is it abuse or trolling?
Trolls are generally looking for attention and interaction. They do this by posting off-topic, insulting, or silly comments. Trolls can be more sinister, and they may even stalk or harass others.
There has been a lot media attention over the past few years around prominent female Twitter figures – including comedians, MPs and businesswomen – who have been targeted online by trolls simply for being females. Sometimes the comments are extremely rude and insulting, but also include graphically violent threats of harm to them. Some “trolls” have been successfully prosecuted.
“Misogyny is shockingly common on Twitter”
Misogyny is a common problem on Twitter. The political think tank Demos produced a report on the subject. It showed that more than 100,000 tweets mentioned rape between 26 December 2013 and 9 February 2014. More than 1 in 10 seemed to be threatening.
Campaigners are working to increase awareness about the issue. This is a positive step in the right direction.
Are these empty threats?
It is difficult to tell if the troll is just making empty threats to upset others or if they are really nasty people who mean what their words mean and will try to execute the threats they make. It’s possible that they are a criminal. It’s crucial to notify the police if you or your child are subject to any online threats or abuse.
Do not feed the trolls
It is common to delete irrelevant comments and ignore abusive or offensive comments.
Remind your child that they are doing this to upset or annoy them.
Your child should tell you if they find someone like this online. Then, you can help your child delete the comment and report the user. You can see how it works below.
The technical part! Twitter trolls should be avoided
Reporting on Twitter: Blocking, muting and reporting
A user can be blocked by you so they don’t have access to your Twitter account. Muting them will take away your ability to see their tweets, but they won’t be able to know that you have muted them. This can be helpful if they are angry at you or want to create another account to trolling you. Twitter will investigate the conduct of a user and suspend or warn them if they break the rules.
- Click on the arrow in the top right corner of the tweet to open it.
- You can choose from the drop-down menu to mute, block, or report this tweet.
From a profile
- Go to the profile page for the account that you want to delete.
- Click or tap on the gear icon to access their profile page.
- Select Block from the Menu.
- To confirm, click Block
You can also share lists of your blocked tweeters with friends, allowing groups to mass-block any particularly disruptive users: https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/a/2015/sharing-block-lists-to-help-make-twitter-safer.html.
Other social media
Click the links below to learn how you can report or block comments and users on Facebook and YouTube.