“Trolls,” as they are known on social media, can be described as this generation’s new bullies. However, unlike traditional bullies, social media trolls often have the advantage of remaining completely anonymous – and as a result, have little risk of repercussions. Social media can be a great platform that helps people all over the world to stay connected, but it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to. If you discover that your child is being bullied by a troll, here’s a few tips that may help:
Remind them that social media is not real life. Although this may seem rather obvious, a reality check is always a good thing. The New York Times recently highlighted a study that documented the average teen clocking in 9 hours per day using some form of online media. With so much exposure, it can be easy for kids to blur these lines and take the harassment personally.
Report the behavior. Every major social media site takes trolling and cyberbullying very seriously and provides a corresponding form to report it. Several social media websites are implementing keyword filters to help block abuse. When you report trolling, you are helping these networks to improve their prevention tools.
Let them know they aren’t the only one going through this. Unfortunately, bullying is widespread. One in three students experience traditional bullying, and a whopping 34% report being exposed to cyberbullying in their lifetime.
Try not to downplay how serious this is to them. Although it can be difficult to understand why kids are so affected by what people (usually strangers) say to them on the internet, it’s important to take these issues as seriously as they do. Very sadly, there has been a substantial increase in cyberbullying-related teen suicides over the last few years. Bullying is bullying, regardless of the delivery, and trolls can be just as hurtful.
Tell them not to engage. The best thing to do is to immediately block the troll and ignore them. As with most bullies, trolls are hoping to get a reaction from their targets. By responding, you are essentially “feeding the flames.” In general, trolls will move on if they don’t get a response. If the troll refuses give up, continue to not engage and report the user.
If it gets bad, report it to the police. If at any point personal information is distributed or the harassment begins to involve threats of violence or stalking behavior, call the police immediately. Until recently, there were no laws addressing cyberbullying. Now, however, it is considered an extremely serious crime that can result in a felony charge, or even jailtime.
Explain to them why people bully to begin with. Ultimately, it’s important to explain to your kids that bullies only do what they do because they themselves are unhappy. Kids that are bullies generally have low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. This behavior directly drives their hostility towards others that don’t have these same feelings.
As we mentioned earlier, social media can be a great way to keep in touch with people, and studies have shown that these platforms even help encourage learning by providing students with access to a vast amount of knowledge and information. However, it’s important to keep an eye on what your kids are being exposed to on social media – and watch out for trolls!