If you think the answer might be yes, don’t worry too much about it. Internet trolls, among the under 20-age group, can be considered the new class clowns. There is a catch, though.
A troll is someone, on the internet, who does or posts something with the deliberate intent of getting a reaction or derailing a conversation. For the most part, trolling is harmless and the intent is to be funny, albeit at the expense of others who don’t understand that there are hijinks going on.
As a parent, whether or not you monitor your teen’s internet and social media activity closely, you might run into a situation where your kid’s trolling gets him accused of bullying or harassment. Trolls tend to be inflammatory and over the top, since the intention is to get a response. The victim’s response can often be emotional, and a troll would generally take the opportunity to fan the flames. An observer – a teacher or school official – seeing the exchange might assume that some grave offense was committed.
In cases such as this, the nature of the internet makes the situation potentially more damaging and certainly more permanent than would have been the case with the old school class clown.
If you see evidence of your teen trolling, or suspect it, this is a great opportunity to have a serious conversation. We’re big fans of humor, and want kids to have fun, but it’s important that kids understand that comments can live forever on the internet, and what you thought was a joke might look more sinister to someone else. If that someone else happens to be a future employer or college admissions officer, what your intentions were probably won’t matter.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.