Considering all the potential risks they can face there, it’s right that parents should be concerned about their children’s safety on the internet. But in developing protective attitudes towards their kids online, parents can sometimes be blind to those kids’ own capacity to make things unpleasant for others. For many young people, the anonymity provided by the internet presents an irresistible temptation. It gives them the power to be deliberately disruptive and hurtful to others with no effective sanction.
The internet is full of established communities where individuals meet to engage in civil discussion, and all of these, sooner or later, run foul of what are referred to as ‘trolls’. The term ‘troll’ comes from the method of fishing which involves using explosives to stun or kill all the fish in a waterway, then waiting to see what floats to the top. Trolls deliberately aim to offend in order to get as big a reaction as possible. Most seasoned internet users simply ignore them, but they can have seriously damaging effects on vulnerable communities such as support groups. Given that most trolls do what they do because they like the attention, and have difficulty perceiving the people they hurt as real or important, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that many of them are young teenagers.
Kids like these can get away with doing what they do because they feel no need to take online precautions. For parents to intervene successfully, they need to be ready to take seriously complaints made through service providers, and they need to be ready to talk seriously with their children. online trolling is not only a problem in the immediate term, it can lead children into negative ways of behaving towards others in every area of life. Away from the internet, of course, this is can potentially have serious consequences for them as well.
Discussing trolling is an important online precaution for parents to take before letting their children loose on the internet to behave in whatever way their whims suggest. Encouraging them to behave responsibly toward others – no matter where they meet them – is an important part of helping them to grow up into emotionally healthy adults.