What is it?
Imagine you’re watching a YouTube video when you notice that people have posted nasty comments to try to start an argument - this is an example of online trolling. An online troll is a person who tries to start arguments by posting mean or controversial content online.
Why do people do it?
There has been little research to date on the causes, motivations and effects of trolling. There have been some high-profile cases of trolling targeted towards celebrities in the media but it’s important to remember that it can happen to anyone. Research has found that the common motivations behind online trolling can be categorised into ‘boredom, attention seeking and revenge’. (Scachaf & Noriko, 2010)
Is it illegal?
Online trolling is a type of cyberbullying behaviour; there are several different laws that make acts of trolling illegal:
- The Malicious Communications Act (1988) states it is illegal to cause distress or harm to another through electronic communication.
- The Prevention from Harassment Act (1997) states that it is a criminal offense to harass others online.
- The Communications Act (2003) states that it is criminal to send, via any electronic communication, a message which is deemed grossly offensive or menacing.
The impact of Cyberbullying Behaviour_
In the BBC’s ‘Odd One Out’ documentary (2019), Jesy Nelson of Little Mix talks to The Diana Award about her experience of cyberbullying behaviour and the affect this had on her mental health.
“The words people use and whether they chose to use them positively or negatively have a permanency and they stick with us” - Jesy Nelson
Top tips if you experience online trolling…
Screenshot evidence of bullying behaviour so you can show a teacher, parent/carer or other responsible adult what is happening. However, never screenshot inappropriate/illicit photos because it’s a criminal offense to have inappropriate pictures of someone under the age of 18 on any device.
2- Report, then block.
Once you have saved the evidence, report the post. Most social media apps have a way to report a photo, video, post, status, etc. They will sometimes ask you to explain why you are reporting the content and, most of the time, it is completely anonymous to report someone. Then, we recommend blocking them to avoid further online communication.
3- Tell someone.
Cyberbullying behaviour can make you feel powerless and isolated. Let someone know what has happened and talk it through with them. A problem shared is a problem halved. This can be a friend, family or teacher. If you fear someone is experiencing cyberbullying behaviour, ask them if they are ok and if they want to talk about it. Never forced them to but let them know you will always be there for them.
4- Do not reply.
The motivations behind cyberbullying behaviour can be boredom and seeking attention (Scachaf & Noriko, 2010). Therefore, do not give them the attention they are craving, ignore the comment and do not reply. If you engage with the person exhibiting the bullying behaviour, it could get worse and you could say something in the heat of the moment you later regret.
Top tips if you see trolling online…
1- Be an Upstander.
Never laugh along or encourage online trolling. An upstander is someone who takes action when they see that something is not right. If you see trolling happen online, you do not have to confront the individual – instead, you can make a responsible adult aware or report the content they are sharing. If you feel safe to do so, you can ask them why they posted the hurtful content and ask them to take it down.
2- Understand the impact.
Ask the person who is trolling online if they understand the impact trolling can have. You can direct them to watch Jessy Nelson’s documentary on her own experience - this may give them a better insight into the real impact of trolling.
3- Enlist help from others.
Enlist the help of moderators on social media. If you do not feel comfortable confronting someone about their trolling directly, report their comments/posts on that social media platform. Moderators have the power to remove comments that violate their terms and conditions - for example, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all have this option.
4- Report the post/comment/photo.
Report the online trolling to the social media or gaming site. This means that the platform or gaming site can ban them from the site and stop them making further comments.
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.
You can also contact Childline by calling 0800 1111.