Nineteen year old boys revealed as top trolling target

Boys aged nineteen are the group most likely to be affected by trolling or online bullying among teenagers, according to research released today. That’s the key finding of a new national survey of teens, Trolled Nation, conducted by Opinium for knowthenet.org.uk, which showed that whilst 2 in 3 teens have experienced trolling or online bullying, hardly any would turn to parents (17%) or teachers (1%) for support as their first reaction.

However, it’s not just failing to confide with an adult that is worrying; 60% of teens said they had never reported the problem to the relevant social media website, despite many sites offering one click abuse reporting. Teens don’t believe reporting abuse makes any difference; over a third of those deciding not to report the incident said it was because they felt like no action would be taken.

Arthur Cassidy, Media Psychologist and knowthenet.org.uk trolling expert said: “Whilst some might expect girls to be more vulnerable online, this study shows that older boys are more at risk from trolling and cyber bullying. Many boys feel under pressure to demonstrate their bravado, particularly on the web, but this attitude and male deficiency in coping strategies can make them more vulnerable and open to trolling. Online bullying can have a massive impact on older male teenagers at a time when they are finding their identities. Suicide rates are particularly high amongst this demographic, so it’s worrying to hear that teenagers on the whole are choosing to deal with internet abuse themselves rather than speaking to parents or teachers for help.”

The who, where, what of online trolling

With 85% of nineteen year old males reporting that they have experienced some form of trolling or online bullying, they were the top target identified by the knowthenet Trolled Nation study. Older teens are more likely to be affected than their younger counterparts, for both boys and girls.

87% of those who reported experiencing online bullying or trolling said they had experienced it on Facebook, making it the top social network or service where it occurs. The knowthenet survey reveals other social media sites / services that are popular forums for online bullying or trolling:

• 19% stated Twitter
• 13% BBM (BlackBerry Messenger)
• 9% Ask.fm
• 8% Bebo
• 4% Whatsapp

Shockingly, trolling and bullying online isn’t limited to just generic insulting posts: 21% of teenagers have either experienced or witnessed offensive comments. For example, on a Facebook memorial page.

The study suggests trolling is now more prevalent than real-life bullying: 49% of teens said they had experienced bullying offline, compared with the 65% that had online. The phenomenon also seems to be an on-going problem for teens, and not one-off incidents; 34% reported that their experience with trolling or online bullying lasted more than a month.

Phil Kingsland, Site Director at knowthenet.org.uk, said “Parents may find it frustrating that children spend so much time absorbed with their smartphone or on social networks. It’s precisely because of the importance of these networks to youngsters that they can also cause great distress. Understanding the potential impact trolls can have on teenagers is the first step to engaging with your youngsters about this, and helping them to deal with these issues. Online trolling can be as traumatic as physical bullying in the playground, so it’s important that action is taken quickly and parents and teachers work together to monitor and deal with the issue.”

Emma-Jane Cross, CEO and founder of the charity BeatBullying commented: “Bullying both on and offline continues to be a serious problem for a huge number of teenagers and we cannot ignore its often devastating and tragic effects. We work with hundreds of young people being cyber-bullied or trolled so badly that it can lead to depression, truancy, self-harm, or even force them to contemplate or attempt suicide. What’s also concerning is that many young people could be suffering in silence. The most important thing for young people to remember is not to ignore it. If you see cyber-bullying going on, report it to the site concerned and offer your support. If you’re being cyber-bullied, always save any bullying messages, posts, pictures or videos you receive or see. Never respond or retaliate, as this can just make things worse, and block any users that send you nasty messages.”

Knowthenet.org.uk has launched a trolling hub with lots of advice on how to deal with online bullying and trolling. This provides details of how to report online bullying and trolling. You can visit the hub at www.knowthenet.org.uk/trolling, with further tips and advice on how to stay safe, legal and informed online at knowthenet.org.uk.

The top three tips from Knowthenet.org.uk to tackle online trolling:

For teens

1. Don’t feed the trolls – trolls feed off your response so whatever you do, never reply.
2. Tell a mate, a teacher, a parent or someone you trust about it as soon as possible.
3. Collect evidence of email or message trails in case it gets more serious. You can find a checklist of what to keep at www.knowthenet.org.uk/trolling

For parents
1. Listen to your teenager and discuss the problem they’re having.
2. Help your child with the practical elements of gathering evidence but be respectful of their privacy so ask before reading their messages
3. Support your child in reporting the abuse to the social network, online messaging service, or even the authorities and keep monitoring the situation on a regular basis. There’s more information on how to report online bullying at www.knowthenet.org.uk/trolling

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