Have you ever seen the term “troll” or “trolling” used on social media? If you look at the comment section of any controversial topic, you’ll likely find it. Trolling is typically used to irritate communities, fans of celebrity targets, or people who hold specific beliefs or positions of power. The seemingly anonymous nature of internet commenting allows “trolls” to operate without fear of punishment. However, trolling is considered a form of cyberbullying and can have a severe impact on offline life.
Trolling is defined by the NSPCC as: the sending of menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms, or online games.
40% of school children who have been bullied said that lies or rumours about them had been shared online
48% of children said they feel they are more likely to be bullied on social media
Almost half of children surveyed didn’t tell their parents or carers about being bullied online
12% didn’t tell anyone at all
In November 2021, schools across the UK were targeted by TikTok accounts in which pupils rate their teachers. The videos caused “real distress” to those targeted, with some teachers taking sick leave as a result. Some schools have even involved the police, as some of the content was abusive and could constitute as a crime.
If a child or young person in your care is trolling someone:
Do not get angry with them. Many young people consider trolling ‘a bit of fun’ and might not fully understand the impact of their behaviour. You can watch our video on talking to your child about online risks here.
This is a perfect opportunity to talk to your child about the impact bullying can have on others. Ask them to consider how they would feel if someone was bullying a friend or family member in this way.
Explain that anonymity online is limited. Social media platforms can and do work with police to identify users involved in online harassment.
It is also important to remind young people that internet trolls who target people with abusive or offensive material online may get into trouble with the law.
Trolling and cyberbullying remain a persistent problem in the online world. Remember to take active steps to educate yourself so that you can better protect the children and young people in your care.
For a useful tool to help children and young people navigate their emotional journeys, teach them to use our Emotions Journal.