In Cyber Safety, Internet Safety Trends

Understand the Internet Troll

Understanding the Internet Troll

If you spend a large amount of time online using forums, on social media or playing social games, you are likely already familiar with the term “troll.” But who is the internet troll? According to a definition by Princeton, Internet trolls are individuals who purposely post inflammatory, off topic or extraneous posts on websites in an effort to stir up drama or harass other members. It is important to define the Internet troll as an important factor in maintaining the cyber safety of children.

Why the Draw?

Most typical people would wonder what the draw is to the people who are trolling the Internet. After all, this type of anti-social behaviour in the real world wouldn’t be tolerated and many people wouldn’t even attempt it. However, when you add in the Internet, it quickly becomes an issue of anonymity. The fact of the matter is, trolls don’t have to own up to their behaviour because they can hide behind the screen. According to The Psychology of the Internet Troll, which is posted on Academic Earth, this behaviour mimics the behaviour of individuals who used CBs in the 1970s to reach out to others.

False Identities

People online are always asking, “who is the troll?” The problem is it is almost impossible to find out, especially for the casual Internet user. The administration may be able to determine if the troll has a different username on the same site, but in many cases, unless it is an issue of cyber safety, the administration will not address the behaviour. In most cases, these trolling individuals will not create an account with their real identifying information. The University of Buffalo School of Management study showed that individuals often created online personas that are much different than their real life personas. The Internet allows them to be whoever they would like to be, which can lead to more problems than resolutions.


One of the biggest challenges in dealing with Internet trolls is the misinterpretation that can occur online. Even if it seems fairly obvious that the troll is purposely trying to stir the pot, it is often difficult to prove. This is especially true if the troll is confronted by other posters or even the administration of the site and simply claim that other posters are misunderstanding their intentions. Because facial expression, tone and intent are difficult to determine over the Internet, misinterpretation is often used to get out of trouble.

It’s All in Fun

Many individuals take the Internet as trolls because they find it fun or entertaining. In many situations, younger individuals who don’t have anything else to do will find themselves trolling the Internet, looking for some entertainment. They purposely post inflammatory statements, not as a way to bully or harass other people, but to watch the reactions and enjoy seeing people get worked up about what they post. When they are confronted on their behaviour, they often shrug it off and claim it was all in fun.

An Easy Exit

Another reason why people take to trolling on the Internet is because they have an easy out online. When you talk down to a person when you are standing right in front of them, you can certainly walk away, but they can follow you or take up the conversation again at a later time. However, when trolls make their comments online, they are free to walk away whenever they want. They often stick around to watch the drama for a while, but when they grow tired of it, they can leave the site and never return again if they choose. This makes it easy to stir up trouble.They don’t care if they are banned.

How to Stop Trolls

It doesn’t matter who is the troll. No matter who is doing the trolling, there are things you can do to put a stop to the behaviour or at least discourage it. Ignoring the trolls posts can be one of the best ways to put a stop to it quickly. Individuals participate in trolling behaviour because they thrive on the reactions they get from other posters. If they aren’t getting that response, they are less likely to continue posting. In addition to ignoring the behaviour, it is important for other site members to report accounts that are obviously participating in troll behaviour. This allows the administration to look into the account and potentially close it.

Dealing with an Internet troll is not often a pleasant experience. Understanding the who is the troll and why do they do what they do can help individuals better handle the behaviour. Reporting the behaviour and not posting in reply to the troll are both ways to put a stop to the behaviour. However, it is also important for parents to talk to their children about trolling and its potential negative effects to slow down the spread of this behaviour and increase cyber safety.

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