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Modern Parenting Guide: How to Deal with Bad Behavior Online

Unfortunately, bad behavior is prone to proliferating online—often fueled by people we call “trolls” and “griefers,” who get a kick out of acting badly online. If you want to protect your kids from their unwanted influences, it first helps to understand a few important points, as we note in Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide.

Online, the term troll refers to someone who posts provocative claims and statements designed to generate a hostile or angry response. These can take the form of comments on a social network, blog or Internet message board; news stories posted on a website; or incendiary remarks or postings made anywhere there are online conversations occurring. 

Griefers are similar to trolls, being users or players of multiplayer or online video games who, instead of trying to win, are taking part in the action specifically to take advantage of or harass others. Often the reason that these users do so is simply to get a rise out of people.

Ultimately, negative online behaviors promoted by these individuals can range from annoying to disruptive and stressful, and kids’ may find themselves playing right into trolls’ and griefers’ hands if they respond to their antics.

In many cases, trolls and griefers are harmless. However, it’s possible that their harassment could mark the start of a cyberbullying or cyberstalking incident, should issues persist.

Tips:

  • Just as with cyberbullies, it’s important for kids to understand not to feed the beast. Don’t respond or “stoop to” trolls’ or griefers’ level, as it will only give them more ammunition and fuel for the fire. When confronted with such negative behavior, it’s best to take the high road and ignore it all together.
  • If you experience trolling or griefing within the boundaries of an online community, game or forum, report guilty parties to the site or service’s administrators or moderators. Oftentimes, such channels are heavily policed to ensure a positive experience for all users.
  • If you witness repeated acts of unacceptable behavior, be sure to document the problem in case it’s necessary to provide supporting facts to administrators or authorities should incidents escalate in severity.
  • In addition to looking the other way, it’s also frequently simple to eliminate trolls or griefers from your life by ignoring or banning them using online privacy settings. Social networks such as Twitter give users the option to ignore certain users, and it’s surprisingly simple to “de-friend” someone on Facebook who is causing problems. Other sites and services may offer similar tools that let you block commentary or communications from unwanted parties.
  • Be forewarned: Some online users with a large following will sometimes publicly call out other users in the hopes that their fans or followers will deluge the victim with commentary or outreach. Akin to posting someone’s information publicly and encouraging others to harass them, it not only encourages negative behavior – it can also carry serious consequences.

For more, also be sure to see Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide.

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