Win a year's subscription to the Mysmartkid programme!The Smartbox filled with age-appropriate toys, tools and activities as well as expert advice for children from before birth to 6 years.
5 tips for parents on Youtube safetyHow to keep your kids safe on the world’s most popular video-sharing medium.

Family troll terror

This shocking story of online bullying comes with a twist and a lesson for parents.
By Scott Dunlop

Pic: Shutterstock

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 happening?

Troll armour

  • Maintain an ongoing conversation with your child about their online activity, encouraging them to mention any comments or behaviour which seem suspicious.
  • Agree on boundaries, such as avoiding sites which are age-restricted or sites which encourage anonymous users and the amount of time to be spent online.
  • Advise them only to interact with people who are clearly identifiable, and to avoid or block anonymous users who attempt to interact with them.
  • 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 trolled?


Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.