The Evolution of the Cyberbully: What we are teaching our kids. Are you a troll?

I don’t think that I need to explain what this post is about, we have all heard about online bullying regarding Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.; and how our kids are forced to deal with bullying in a new way, and outside of school hours.

New state laws for schools have even included cyber bullying in their codes of conduct, and made such behavior punishable, extending the protection of children to outside the classroom.

Well, when parents are promoting and engaging in that very same behavior, we are leading by a very bad example. And we ARE doing it, and we need to stop it.

Trolls are online commenters, whose sole purpose in life seems to be hiding behind their computers and commenting on every tweet, status update, or written piece of work that anybody puts online, with the purpose of shaming or making fun of the poster. In short, a bully.

Kids see trolls online every day as they follow their favorite bands and actors, television shows and Disney stars, and engage in their own online lives.

The alarming thing, the main thing that I am trying to say here is this: These trolls are parents, too. These trolls are raising children who go to school with our children. And we are wondering why our kids are having to deal with what they are.

What can we do about it? Consider these three simple things.

Number one: Stop BEING a troll. Recognize that you ARE a troll. Are you respectful or hurtful with your online comments? If you disagree with the poster, do you know how to have a disagreement without name calling or berating? If not, learn how to. If you can’t learn, don’t comment. Think about what you are teaching your kids and be mindful of your online engagements.

Number two: Have open discussions about what trolling is with your children. As I am becoming more active online, and more of my posts and stories are being published, I get troll comments.  I like to tell my kids about them, even show some of them to them, and explain how hurtful and unacceptable I find them. And then have them watch as they are deleted. The kids appreciate knowing that they aren’t the only ones who get bullied, and I’m proving that they are not alone.

Number three: Control your little piece of cyberspace. If you have your own site and can control what shows up, delete the offensive comments. Do not engage or try to explain yourself. Trolls need attention to thrive and hate being ignored more than anything. Media sites need to take notice, too. I understand that controversy brings in viewers, but there has to be a line that cannot be crossed.

I hope that someone, somewhere, is looking into a way to make trolls accountable for their bad behavior. Maybe if people were being fined, maybe if it were illegal, less children would be emulating what we grownups are doing wrong.

Until that happens, we need to do what we can. I don’t think we can completely eradicate cyber bullying, but by taking responsibility for ourselves and by having open communication with our kids, we can hopefully lessen its impact.

Too many children are being hurt.



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