Social networks have become an ideal playground for some internet users as they can tease, bully, torment and harass people behind a pseudonym while being snug at home.
A 2013 survey published by Ditch the Label showed that approximately 37% of the correspondents declared they had encountered cyberbullying in their lifetime. Trolling and cyberbullying are two related words portraying immoral and wrong behaviours on social networks. Among Internet users, there are teenagers who don’t realise the impact and the significance of either their comments or the contents they publish on the web. So how to protect those users bullied by those individuals who clearly take advantage of the internet?
To begin with, what exactly is ‘trolling’? The word originated in 1992 and is now vastly used in the internet vocabulary. Trolling is the curious word to define an internet user who posts unpleasant, offensive or inappropriate comments on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to generate a reaction from other users; this trend also concerns websites such as YouTube and forums.
Cyberbullying, on the other hand refers to any individual who uses any kind of digital media support such as email and social networks to blackmail, intimidate or threaten a person.
In 2012, Amanda Todd, a 15 year old girl committed suicide after being the target of cyberbullies. Private pictures of her were shared on the internet; she was blackmailed and bullied. This sad and shocking story raised once again the question of how to prevent these tragic events from happening.
Siobhan Freyne, a concerned mother and aware of the likely consequences of cyberbullying and trolling, thinks that more attention should be paid regarding this specific matter: “I think that the subject of cyberbullying and trolling should be discussed openly with parents, teachers and children and the consequences pointed out.” People can consider trolling and cyberbullying to be a game, not aware of the possible consequences it can have on individuals.
“Cyberbullying may be more traumatizing psychologically than ordinary bullying which is often physical. On the web bullies are faceless and more brutal,” expressed Catriona Lynch, a primary school teacher conscious of the harm and the impact that cyberbullying can have on children and teenagers, as nowadays youngsters have easy access to internet or other related devices.
In fact cyberbullies hide behind their screens and behind several fake names to harass or blackmail their victims. Catriona also talks about the serious consequences that bullying can lead to. “As any bullying, the main consequence is the loss of self-esteem and confidence. Being exposed on the web amounts to one’s privacy being invaded” she says.
The ‘trolls’ as they are called just wait for a response, and voluntarily post outrageous comments in order to generate and trigger off a conflict and a reaction from the person or the community targeted.
Since 2008, trolling has become a huge practice in the digital media especially on Facebook. The phenomenon also has its own picture representing what is known as the ‘troll face’. The ‘troll face’ is symbolized by a face with a gigantic and vicious smile, which represents the sole purpose of a ‘troll’: being amused by teasing other users and watching them react to his comments.
For some users, trolling is seen as a harmless game between teenagers; however trolling is taken very seriously by the authorities. In 2011, Sean Duffy, a 25 year old man, in the U.K was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for passing a comment and making fun of the death of two teenagers on the Facebook tribute page.
Cyberbullying and Trolling are two serious matters of which parents and teenagers should be aware of and should subsequently adopt the appropriate attitude to protect both their identity and privacy.
Here is a campaign against cyberbullying launched by Watch Your Space in January 2013: