The Cambridge Dictionary describes a troll as “an imaginary, either very large or very small creature in traditional Scandinavian stories, that has magical powers and lives in mountains or caves.”
If you have read your fairy tales, you would know that trolls are generally grotesque creatures that stay away from human habitation. They take pleasure in carrying out antisocial activities and causing people pain and mental suffering.
Those trolls are mythical, but the online trolls are very much real. These digital trolls use the anonymity offered by the net to stay hidden and cause disruption and harm through their malicious and negative comments. They share provocative, malicious content and delight in fomenting unrest. If the victim takes the comments personally, it can leave them emotionally disturbed.
Why do people troll?
Why do people troll? Why do they want to insult, abuse, criticize, hurt and spread negativity? There are many studies available online that offer detailed analysis of how a troll’s mind works. However, we won’t go into such details. For our convenience and easy understanding, it will suffice to say that trolling may be the result of an individual’s background, low empathy levels, anger, frustration, jealousy, sadness and/or bitterness.
- Low empathy: There are people who have less empathy or sensitivity and often find grim or disturbing situations funny. They will, for e.g.; not think twice about posting a joke on a social media thread where everyone is offering condolence on the demise of a loved one. They may see nothing wrong in it, rather it may give them a laugh.
- Inflexible attitude: Some people find it difficult to accept that others too can have their individual viewpoints and instinctively target people with different opinions as enemies and make it their mission to abuse them, as if to prove that they are wrong. They hamper freedom of speech online for they do try to desist other users from sharing their personal opinions.
- Revenge: Some go on a rampage to seek revenge for the ‘wrong’ done to them or someone else.
The anonymity provided by the net enables many cowardly people to feel strong by attacking others and give vent to their emotions online.
How do you identify trolls?
Easy. They are the rabble rousers, the ones who have nothing positive to contribute but are only out to disrupt, disturb and upset you. Their posts may vary from personal comments on your photo, satirical outbursts on your blogs or videos or direct attacks on your person, to out-of-context malicious remarks in an ongoing discussion. They would definitely be using a false bio and either no profile pic or a false one.
What do you do if you are trolled?
- Avoid feeding them – they thrive on your emotional upheaval and vituperative responses. The smart thing to do is to neither acknowledge their comments nor respond to them. Nothing is as putting off as an IGNORE.
- Keep records and block – If the trolling continues, keep records and block account of the troll and report to the platform. Let your friends know about the account too.
- Consider keeping commenting off on your YouTube channel – you may also choose to delete negative comments.
- Make amendments to posts – if factual or grammatical errors or an archaic style of writing your posts or blogs have brought out the trolls, consider apologizing for the errors and making revisions. Reply positively, thanking the troll for the feedback. You will take the wind out of the troll’s sails.
- Don’t take it to heart – adults may use humour to counter trolls online, but it may not be easy for teens to keep emotions aside and reply to abusive comments lightly. So, it’s best to ignore.
As a digital parent, you may already be aware of trolls and the emotional havoc they can cause. You want to protect your kids from their attacks when they go online. At the same time, you need to explain to them why trolling is wrong and sometimes funny isn’t funny at all but may be hurtful and nasty.
How to ensure your kids know it’s wrong to troll?
- Good manners: Whether online or off it, there is no substitute to good manners and etiquette. Ensure your kids feel happy and secure at home. Model the kind of behavior you expect from them and reward good manners with appreciation.
- Empathy: The world runs on kindness and empathy. Reinforce empathy right from childhood. They need to understand that there are all kinds of people and each one is special in some way. Help them grow up to be generous, tolerant and broad-minded people.
- Positivity: A child with a positive outlook and sunny disposition is most unlikely to be rude and deliberately mean online. Lay stress on being positive, whatever the situation may be.
- Monitoring: It is recommended that parents monitor the conversations kids have online. Avoid participating in their conversations or taking to task those who maybe bullying or trolling them, for though this will delight the troll, it will be embarrassing for the child. Instead, have discussions on how he/she plans to handle it and let him/her tackle the issue.
- Last but not the least, ensure all your devices are installed with licensed comprehensive security software that offers the parental controls feature. This will allow you to monitor activities remotely, though you should keep your child informed that you are doing so.
One last word: we cannot make trolls vanish, but we can empower our kids to vanquish them.