How to Help Kids Deal With Internet Haters and Trolls

These tips will help kids deal with the emotional impact and the practical aspects of online haters and trolls.

Photo: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

Those folks who make cruel remarks just to stir the pot are everywhere. Kids are affected by this to varying degrees, depending on many factors, including a kid’s age, his or her level of sensitivity, the severity of the comments, and the kid’s social situation. Here are some tips for dealing with the emotional impact and the practical aspects of online haters and trolls:

Explain what it is. Hating and trolling is a form of cyberbullying. The behavior is unacceptable, and your kid shouldn’t blame him or herself for what’s happening.

Talk about why people act out. It may be for attention, it may be because people know they can get away with it, or it may be because the hater is just mean-spirited. Help your kid realize that the comments say more about the troll than they do about your kid.

Talk about feedback. The ability to handle criticism is a valuable skill that your kid will use for her entire life.

Focus on the good comments. Explain that comments are likely to run the gamut from insightful to insulting. Sometimes kids fixate on the negative and forget to acknowledge constructive comments.

Help her learn from it. She can learn from the experience that there’s a way to respond appropriately and a way to phrase comments constructively.

Explain that your online identity isn’t your real, true self. Kids may take the comments personally and begin to feel bad about themselves.

Get help. Your kid may need someone to talk to if the negativity has made an impact on his or her well-being.

Advise caution with in-person encounters. If your kid knows the troll — or trolls — the abuse could spill over into real life. Speak to other adults — teachers, coaches, or parents — to let them know there’s a simmering social situation in which your kid is being targeted.

Ignore, block, unfollow. Tell your kid not to engage. Block and unfollow the hater using the site, game, or app’s privacy settings.

Flag and report the behavior. Use the community reporting tools to let the company know someone is abusing their guidelines.

Take screenshots. If the trolling is threatening, personal, or hateful, save the evidence in case things escalate.

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