Have your ever heard of the expression “online trolling”? It’s a strange expression and brings to mind the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. In this tale, three goats try, one by one, to cross a river using a bridge under which a troll is hidden. The troll harasses and bullies each goat, and eventually shows himself, but in doing so is defeated by the largest goat.
The troll in The Three Billy Goats Gruff is not unlike an online troll. The Australian eSafety Commissioner defines an online troll as someone who makes a deliberatively provocative comment or post then waits for people to take the bait. Trolls often post many of their provocative messages or comments anonymously (i.e., they hide under the bridge), which makes it difficult to identify who the person actually is. This anonymity can make people feel more powerful and willing to say more provocative things than they would in real life. Here are some tips for how to deal with online trolls.
- Resist the urge to respond. As tempting as it may be, by replying you will just be giving the troll what they want. Not responding is the best response.
- If it spills over into online hate or cyberbullying, your best course of action is to block the abuser and report the abuse. Most social media sites have rules against abusive online behaviour and tools that allow you to report any comments or accounts.
- If it’s getting serious, and you are under 18, you can report it to eSafety. They can help take any abusive content down and point you in the right direction if you need other help. If you are over 18 read the eSafety Commissioner’s advice on how to deal with cyber abuse.
- Talk to a trusted friend and seek counselling support as required.
Cyberbullying is behaviour that uses technology to threaten, intimidate, harass or shame someone with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or even physically. It can take place on social media, through online chat and messaging services, text, messages, emails, on message boards and in online forums that allow people to publicly comment.
One in five young people have been bullied on line, and cases such as that of Dolly Everett of Katherine in the Northern Territory highlight how dangerous cyber bullying can be. If you are under 18 the eSafety Commissioner recommends that you:
- Resist the urge to respond to any hate targeted at you online, it usually makes it worse.
- Before you block or delete, make sure you take a screenshot. If you’ve seen or been the target of nasty behaviour online, your immediate reaction might be to make it disappear, but it’s really important you keep evidence of it. This might help you out down the track if the person continues to be nasty and you need to report it to eSafety. However, if the bullying material involves nudes you will need advice about taking screenshots, even if the image is of yourself. The eSaftey Commissioner’s website should be your first port of call as it contains advice on this matter.
- Report and block the person. Most social media services, games and apps have a function that makes it easy to report and block online bullying.
- Cyberbullying can make you feel isolated and like everyone is out to get you, but that’s not the case. Talk to people you trust and get support from mates or adults that have your back, and you’ll realise that you are not alone. Seek counselling support as required.
- Report it to eSafety. If you have trouble getting the content removed and you are under 18, you can report it to the cyberbullying team at eSafety. They can work with you to get the hurtful content taken down and point you in the right direction to get help and support.
If you are over 18 the above steps also apply. In addition, there is more detailed information on the eSafety Commissioner’s website about how to manage cyberbullying in terms of domestic and family violence, and image-based abuse, for example.
Nobody would like to believe that trolling and cyberbullying takes place in our communities, but unfortunately it does. If you belong to an online community group, for example, and you see posts naming and/or shaming other people, call them out: “Silence in the face of wrongdoing is itself wrongdoing: we are not guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act” adapted from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.