Family troll terror
This shocking story of online bullying comes with a twist and a lesson for parents.
By Scott Dunlop
Article originally in Parent24
Online bullying is usually easy to ignore, but for the
Traynor family, it became so bad that it almost ruined their lives. The hateful
messages turned into threats and, shockingly, the delivery of an intimidating parcel to their
front door. You can read all about how it happened on Traynor’s blog; how he
and his wife abandoned Twitter in fear until, in a technological twist, they
discovered the troll who was behind the threats... Here’s his chilling account:
Traynor’s Eye: Meeting a Troll
What is a troll?
A troll is an individual who sets up an anonymous account in
order to insult, criticise or intimidate people online. *Update: Trolling is characterised by out-of-context negative statements or comments.
Sometimes the insults
are easy to ignore, but anonymity may give the troll the confidence to
assassinate the character of one person he has specifically targeted. When he
continues to pick on one person, commenting on blog posts or mentioning that
person on Twitter, it is known as ‘trolling’.
It is usually recognised by threats, swearing, insults and
accusations designed to intimidate the victim. It may be completely random, or
with the purpose of bullying an individual.
Teens are particularly vulnerable when it comes to trolling,
both as trolls and as victims. For some kids, online trolling is the equivalent
of a prank call- not meant to be taken seriously, and done for a laugh. On the
other hand, being the victim of trolling can be extremely nerve-wracking, as it
implies someone is in your personal space, interfering with your private life.
*Update: Trolling is generally random, whereas cyber-bullying is more focused on one individual, organisation or company.
Your teen may experience daily online harassment, which is
potentially as damaging as bullying in real life. How can you avoid this from
- Maintain an ongoing conversation with your child about their
online activity, encouraging them to mention any comments or behaviour which
- Agree on boundaries, such as avoiding sites which are age-restricted or sites which encourage anonymous users and the amount of time to be
- Advise them only to interact with people who are clearly
identifiable, and to avoid or block anonymous users who attempt to interact
- Adjust security settings on any accounts which may be
compromised, and change passwords frequently.
- It may be necessary to shut down an account if trolling
cannot be prevented.
- Contact the site owners to report trolls.
- As the saying goes, ‘don’t feed the trolls!’ That means no
interaction with anyone who is being nasty online. Ignore, block and report.
- Don’t click on links. If your child isn’t certain about a
link sent via private message or email, she must never open that link, which
may contain offensive images or viruses which may affect her computer.
Unfortunately, there will always be nasty people, pranksters
and worse online, however, if you can teach your child how to protect herself,
she’ll learn how to avoid trolls and bullies. If you suspect your child is
using the internet as a platform to troll other users, confront the issue in an
appropriate manner, such as removing online privileges, arranging counselling
to find out why or by implementing other disciplinary measures.
*Editor's note: A number of comments have been made distinguishing between cyberbullying (as characterised above), and trolling, which tends to be more random inflammatory comments made out of context.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Does your child know what a troll is and how to avoid being