Along with cyber bullying trolling is a pretty nasty online activity. Trolling is different than cyber bullying in that those who engage in it make argumentative or offensive statements to get attention and start arguments. It can then spiral with other people joining in. Generally, trolls don’t care who they upset, as long as they can stir up trouble for their own entertainment.
  • Trolling is thoughtless, cruel, and harmful and can lead to some serious consequences such as depression and self-harm.
  • Many offensive online comments by trolls are about the victim’s appearance, their religion or their race.
So how do you teach the children to defend against troll and stand up for themselves online?
  • The first step is to block the user. If someone is sending messages which are hurtful, unkind or inappropriate then it’s the best course of action. For instance, if someone is following your child on a social media account and making hurtful comments, simply block them.
  • It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with taking screenshots. You can take a snapshot of the screen and the abusive messages. This is clearly useful for compiling a record of evidence if the abuse is on-going. Keep details of the sender, such as their user/account name.
These points also apply to cyber bullies. Cyber bullies are less likely to go away if ignored. They will keep following their target and trying to inflict harm, and their behaviour may escalate.

The law and reporting abuse

In the UK, most computer crime falls under offences covered by one of three pieces of law legislation: the Computer Misuse Act 1990, the Communications Act 2003 and the Fraud Act 2006.

In most cases trolling abuse is covered by Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 known as “Improper use of public electronic communications network.”

In the USA states have individual laws so the crime will be covered by differing state laws, depending on where the offence took place.

When a crime has taken place it should be reported to the police, including abusive messages. The police may refer you to a dedicated cyber unit or pass on the report themselves.
  • You should keep all messages and offensive content and take it to the police when reporting the abuse. This content can be used in evidence that may help in a prosecution case. It may also contain useful metadata that may help in attributing the activity to the person behind the trolling or bullying.
  • It’s important to teach your children the value of simply logging off and walking away from the screen if they’re overwhelmed by trolling or bullying online.
  • It’s doubtful that turning the device will have an effect on the trolls and bullies, but it will help your child by reminding them that the world is much bigger than social media sites and forums.
  • Parental control software is helpful for avoiding trolls and bullies. For instance with BullGuard Parental Controls (available with BPP and BIS) you can block access to suspicious websites, put search filters in place, limit time spent online, monitor activity and even block certain applications.
  • In short parental controls help keep the kids safe and when dovetailed with learning about trolls and bullies, provide a solid foundation for safe Internet use.