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What is a Troll? (How to Identify a Cyber Bully)

This mom of two has worked with non-profits to provide educational and health programs for local children, and improve the local workforce.

What is a Troll?

Once upon a time, a troll was a big nasty monster that lived under a bridge. Trolling was the a fishing technique that involved dragging your hook along the waterbed in hopes of catching a fish. And in some contexts, these are still valid. However, in today’s internet lexicon, the words troll and trolling have taken on a new meaning which combine the two original definitions to describe both a person and their behaviour.

A troll is someone who lurks online posting inflammatory or off-topic comments in an online community. They drag their nasty attitudes through the comments sections and discussions areas of forums, chats, blogs and newsgroups looking to hook someone into an argument.

A troll is an internet bully.




Trolls have some specific traits that give them away. If they're behaviour weren't so harmful, trolls would almost be comical in their childishness. Here's a quick guide to troll anatomy:

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say ...

Bullying includes rude and abusive comments aimed at starting fights. This is also known as flaming. Trolls will name-call, belittle, use nasty language and make ugly comments about you, your photos/videos/articles/etc, your family and friends. They will disagree with everything and trample anyone who doesn't fall in line with them.

It's all About Meeeee!

Being the center of attention is important to a troll. May the gods of the Internet protect anyone who robs a troll of the spotlight. They will pop into any conversation that doesn't involve them and make it about them. They will make multiple posts, sometimes flooding the conversation and throw tantrums if they feel they're not getting enough attention.

Liar! Liar!

Truth has no place in trolling. Whether it's supposedly facts about technology, news or their personal lives, a troll will fabricate. This is especially true if they're trying to make a point or - more to the point - make you look stupid.

Fancy Meeting You Here

Stalking. It's not funny. If you use the same screen name at multiple sites, you may find yourself being stalked more than Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie combined. Some trolls will even go so far as to set up fake accounts in their victim's name and go about acting in the worse manner possible to ruin their reputation.


Trolling also extends to destructive actions and harassment in online games, including those played from gaming systems such as X-Box Live. This particular type of cyber bullying is called griefing and the form it takes varies depending on the game being played.

More information on this sub-species can be found in "What is Griefing?"

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Be Aware

Trolls generally have multiple accounts with various screen names. All the better to bury their targets under a mountain of nasty assaults.

What to Do

Trolls want to hurt you, make you angry, waste your valuable time and rob you of your energy.

Don't let them.

If you let yourself get sucked into an argument, they've won. The best thing you can do is ignore a troll. They may escalate in a bid to force you into fighting back, but if you remain steadfast, they will almost always give up and turn their attention to easier prey.


Trolls will some times disguise themselves as someone who doesn't understand what you're saying or "innocently" offering another point of view. Watch out for these ones because they can suck you into an argument you didn't mean to be in faster than a cat's sneeze.

“It’s All in Good Fun”

Unfortunately, griefing and trolling has become very popular as more and more of these events are being recorded and posted on Youtube. Trolls think it’s a great prank to play on other players and will even extend their “pranks” to include pretending to be an administrator and asking to speak to a younger player’s mother to then prank her. Trolling is getting so out of hand in some cases, that the media is becoming involved in some cases to help shine the light on these nasty critters to make them stop.

Kids and Trolling

Unfortunately, some trolls and griefers are kids. Some kids do it for kicks, but others don’t realize that they’re doing something harmful. Perhaps an older online role model talked them into doing it because, “it’s funny” or they just don’t know that they’re hurting someone. Whatever their reason, it is the parent’s job to educate their children about how wrong it is to cause other people frustration and emotional upset.

Pranks are only funny if the person on the receiving end will laugh when they find out it’s a joke.

Keep Your Child From Being a Troll

It is important to monitor your child’s online activity, not only to protect them from online predators, but to also prevent them from becoming the predator. The best way to prevent a child from being a troll is to be involved in their online life.

  • Be aware of who their online friends are and what kind of online activities those friends are up to;
  • Watch the videos your child finds funny to make sure the humour isn’t crude, hurtful or destructive;
  • Read what they post and follow online conversations they’re involved in.

If your child is doing any of the activities listed above, make them stop!

Happy surfing and may your online interactions be friendly, fun and free of trolls.

© 2012 Rosa Marchisella


Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on November 04, 2013:

Good point.

Rex on November 04, 2013:

I've learned over the years to recognize them almost immediately when the first words they text is an insult or they yell in all caps and they try to be Internet tough guy I don't respond.

Whatever they claim to be an expert or pro at at is always a lie.

Trolling is for losers. on August 07, 2013:

Whoever invented it should be punished harshly.

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on May 05, 2013:

I think you may be correct about that, MercuryServices. I've noticed trolls LOVE to be talked about and are proud to wear the title, but like with all other forms of abuse, not all victims are willing to speak up for one reason or another. Thanks for pointing that out!

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 04, 2013:

I think you are not finding many people admitting to a troll encounter because trolls love attention and people are willing to admit to that (the trolling), but less likely to admit to being trolled because it could shine negativity or weakness on them.

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on September 30, 2012:

Thank you, Millionaire Tips! I found it alarming to see how many people confess to being trolls - I don't know if it's just folk being funny or if they're serious.

Shasta Matova from USA on September 30, 2012:

I find it very sad that no one in your poll has said that they haven't encountered a troll. They are everywhere! You've provided great tips to avoid getting sucked in by a troll, and hopefully reduce it by teaching your kids about it. Voted up.

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on June 29, 2012:

Thanks so much!!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 29, 2012:

useful info. FBed & Tweetted

Rosa Marchisella (author) from Canada on June 29, 2012:

Thanks, John :-) Good point about the anonymity and their level "bravery". I've actually heard from a 14 year-old who started griefing recently and "pranking" one of his co-players on Minecraft. He thinks it the funniest thing. he doesn't want to acknowledge that he's actually *hurting* these people and ruining their fun, no matter how much his dad explains that to him. This kid even wants to start recording his griefing and create a whole channel dedicated to his douchery, because, as he explained repeatedly to his dad - there are no negative consequences to trolling and griefing. Very upsetting.

John Roberts from South Yorkshire, England on June 29, 2012:

Great article and it really hits the nail on the head as to how trolls work. Their habitats are mostly on forums and just about any online game where anonymity is the key thing. Be this chat roulette, YouTube, video games etcetera. As long as the troll in question has a good enough guise, they will continue to attack players where they were much "braver" and are further away from the concequences of being an accidental murderer.

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