Talk To Your Teens About Reacting to Online Trolls

The word “troll” – referring to an online player who acts a certain way in order to get a reaction from the person or people on the other end of the comment – has risen in popularity coincident with the rise of social media. The line between trolling and cyberbullying is very blurry at times, and unfortunately, a snarky remark can quickly devolve into cyberbullying depending on the reaction of the victim.

tween-online-activityAs a parent, it is important to be able to help your teen deal with trolls, or ignore them entirely, as is often the best course of action. Financial pro Josh Brown, who is very active on Twitter, wrote about ignoring trolls recently, in a Quora piece titled “Why don’t I fight with people on Twitter.” As follows are some of his reasons, and our comments:

“It would only make sense for me to spend time and energy fighting with a stranger on the internet if I cared what they thought or had a desire to change their opinion. I don’t.”

It’s not easy to develop a skin thick enough to not care, especially is the slight is personal. It’s a great idea to start to cultivate this mindset at a young age, and remember that it doesn’t have to be personal if you don’t let it become so.

“Whenever I see two other people going at it on Twitter, my immediate reaction is a cringe. I feel embarrassed for them and I certainly wouldn’t want to come off that way myself.”

Exactly. Perhaps you’re inclined to respond to a troll because of how his comments make you look. You could end up looking far worse if you engage in battle, on his level.

“Supposedly, Plato once said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I don’t know if he ever actually said that but I absolutely agree with it, no matter where the saying came from. The world can be hard enough on people without me adding extra stress to anyone else’s life. How dare we make someone’s life tougher than it already is? Even if they throw the first punch, I don’t want to cause pain.”

Maybe the troll is having a bad day, or is acting out because someone treated him harshly. It’s best to just let the incident die out quietly.

“I believe in Karma, or at least in the concept. I’ve seen so many people get what they deserve and pay the price for lashing out, being nasty or attacking others.”

Actually, you don’t even need to believe in karma. Let’s say that you react harshly, and other people viewing your comments didn’t see the original. Are you sending the message that you are fair game for trolls since you are yourself trolling? Perception becomes reality.

I hate bullies. I’m raising my children to stand up for people, not to tear them down. When I see examples of bullying I feel a revulsion in the pit of my stomach, it’s always been that way. I would never want to be thought of as someone who bullies others or uses whatever advantages I may have to hurt someone else.”

Again, be very aware of the fact that in fighting back, you might be viewed as a bully. Avoid that if you possibly can.

It’s easy for use to say that parents should insist teens and tweens react kindly and compassionately at all times. With fast-paced and sometimes anonymous communication on the internet, it can be difficult to keep your cool and turn the other cheek. When things start getting testy, putting the phone down is a good idea.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Leave a Reply