Be careful, trolling can happen to anyone!

It’s our final Manners Matter article about good manners online, and today we address a topic that’s about as far from good internet manners as you can get:  trolling.

Trolling is just for kids, right? Wrong. Trolling is always very bad manners, but when it goes too far it can easily tip over the edge into something much nastier, and cause a huge amount of distress. Our recent research into this dark side of the internet revealed 19-year-old males to be the most likely victims of trolls. But as a recent case has highlighted, anyone of any age can fall victim to mean-spirited, cowardly and downright nasty trolls.

One family’s trolling hell

The Guardian journalist Leo Traynor is as internet-savvy as it gets. He knows his way around the web and he’s familiar with the risks. But he didn’t expect to be trolled by his neighbour’s son, who waged a ferocious anonymous attack via Twitter, hacked into his Facebook account and abused his family, who were terrified. The abused went offline too, with disturbing deliveries to the family’s doorstep accompanied by notes full of religious hatred.

Taking trolling to task

Adults with a lot of internet experience have advantages over bullied youngsters. They’re more likely to report trolls, better able to resist reacting, often have a deeper understanding of the medium and know how to turn the tables. Instead of suffering in silence, Leo Traynor took action. Determined to pursue the troll, he quietly set about finding out who and where they were, setting traps along the way. With the help of an IT expert he traced the hacker legally using special technology to track down their IP address.

Making the repercussions clear

You can imagine the shame the 17-year-old troll felt when he was confronted by his horrified parents and Leo. The boy genuinely hadn’t realised how serious his behaviour was, and, as a perfectly ordinary teenager, had no real idea of the fear, anger and suffering he had caused until it was pointed out to him. 

Teaching your children good online manners

We aren’t born with good manners; we learn them, and children don’t always naturally know what’s right and wrong. If you’re a parent, it’s a good idea to talk about the ins and outs of trolling with your children and make 100% sure they understand what a bad idea it is.

Expert help for internet experts

If you’re completely at home with social media, use it every day and have a widespread online footprint like Leo, a high profile can lead to attacks. Luckily, you’re more likely than a child to have the confidence to report it, block it or – provided it’s safe and appropriate - find out who’s doing it and confront them.  

You can also explore our Knowledge Centre, where you’ll find sensible advice about what to do about trolling.

If you’d like to revisit our advice, the links to the other articles in this series are below.

• Don’t be an April Fool – you’re a brand, act like one!
• Whose responsibility is it, anyway?
• If it’s not yours, say so!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Manners Matter series – now why not check out our infographic below for a great takeaway guide to how to behave on the internet?

manners matter


Test yourself


  • Today’s children will feature in almost 1,000 online photos by the time they reach age five more »
  • Safer Internet Day 2015: Parents say social media a mixed blessing for kids more »
  • Search engines, SEO and changing your site’s primary domain more »

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RT @armstrongjp: I was just on @BBCYork with @spanswicktweets on #trolling - there are some helpful tips and resources here…
Parents risking children's privacy by sharing hundreds of pictures online via @MirrorTech