Social Media Trolls ~ Purpose and Prevention

According to the report, “What is behind the spike in Russian social media activity?” shown in a news clip Monday, April 17, 2018, the Pentagon reported there has been a 2000% increase in Russian social media trolling since the US strike on Syria on Friday.

What does this mean and should the US and other countries be worried? In the interview, Morgan Wright, Sr Fellow for the Center of Digital Government stated that the UK, indeed, is on alert for another cyber attack, following closely on the heels of the malicious ransomware attack on their healthcare system.

Information warfare, as referenced in the discussion to the 2016 election, is not new nor is it without serious consequences.  Social media trolls are intent on creating doubt, deceit, manipulation and confusion.  These trolls rely on disinformation to start quarrels and upset people. They basically want to provoke readers into an emotionally charged, negative response.

The English noun, “troll” dates back to 1610 and comes from the Old Norse word meaning ugly giant or demon.  Equating ugly giants or demons to social media trolls, makes it easy to conjure up an image of a creature that inflames and wreaks havoc among normal, well meaning individuals.

There’s no escaping the internet trolls in a connected world however, protecting privacy online by understanding and utilizing privacy settings on personal social media accounts will go a long way toward warding off trolls.

Cyberbullying, often a result of disinformation, is an issue young teens face that can be countered with the cultivation of empathy.  Reconsidering messages before they are sent, rethinking aggressive behavior and encouraging bystanders to report abuse they witness, are just a few of the ways to cultivate a culture of empathy and decrease the number of social media trolls.

What Parents And Teachers Can Do To Prevent Cyberbullying

We have all heard stories and read statistics about cyberbullying at home and on school campuses.

According to Cyberbullying Statistics:

~Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online.

~More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats.

~Over 25% of adolescents and teens have been bullied  repeatedly or through their cell phones or the internet.

~Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Some TIPS on how can parents and teachers prevent bullying..

* Be aware of what kids are doing online?

* Become familiar with warning signs that your child or student is a victim of cyberbullying.

* Talk to your child or student about what is happening.

* Talk to your child or student about who is involved in the bullying.

* Document or keep records of everything happening.

* Intervene and/or get help for the victim(s) being bullied.

* Reach out to the bully to express your concern.

Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents so teachers and parents will likely need to be as persistent as the bully in terms of documenting, blocking, and/or reporting what is happening online.  Consider involving counselors, mental health professionals, and law enforcement if needed. No one should ever have to put up with cyberbullying!

What Is Cyberbullying?

The dictionary defines cyberbullying as the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

According to stopbullying.gov, “Cyberbullying generally takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets.  Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming.  Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.  It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.  Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.”

 ~ Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes.

Cyberbullies are persistent in sending negative communication

Cyberbullies may threaten, intimidate, and taunt their victim(s)

~ Cyberbullies may cause mental or physical harm to the victim(s)

~ Cyberbullies may never reveal their true identity

Cyberbullying can occur anywhere including school and home. Cyberbullying makes the victim(s) feel sad, angry, anxious, depressed, worthless, isolated and even suicidal.

Cyberbullying can be a 24/7 nightmare for the victim.

Cyberbullying can be witnessed by thousands of people online.

What cyberbullies tend to forget is what they put online, both about themselves and their victim(s) is permanent and can often be traced to the source.  When cyberbullying becomes criminal behavior, law enforcement gets involved.