Sorry trolls, but we’re switching you off
I want you to stop for a second and picture this… that someone said those things to you, or your friend or your child. Constantly. Everyday.
For me, I started to believe it. When I was struggling with depression, I actually started to believe what these invisible people were saying to me and I let them control my thought process. And I’m an adult with resilience.
So it shouldn’t be too hard to understand why suicide is the biggest killer of our young people. One in five children are being cyberbullied and they don’t have the resilience or understanding of how to deal with it.
In fact, new statistics came out this week that shocked the nation… Suicide is at its highest rate in 13 years with someone committing suicide every 3 hours.
So whose responsibility is it to protect our children? Our schools? Our government? Our parents?
It is every single one of us — we are the ones setting an example for our next generation. Monkey see, Monkey do.
Ever found yourself having an opinion online and going too far? Putting someone down? Abusing someone? Our children are watching and learning with every word we type.
Trolls may think they are targeting one person when they go on an attack, but they are influencing and causing a negative affect for everyone that reads that comment.
Have you ever had an 11-year-old look you in the eye and tell you they want to die? That they want the pain of being bullied to go away? That they believe they are ugly and that they should in fact kill themselves after being instructed to do so by a gutless person online?
I have, and I have to give those kids a voice. We all do.
We need to set a better example online and we need to show them the bigger picture, that there is more to life than school and social media.
This isn’t just about children though, this is about anyone with a social media account. Out of thousands of calls made to the Bully Zero Australia Foundation helpline, 80 per cent were complaining about online behaviour — and these calls were not only from children but also from adults and employers trying to stop online bullying.
That’s an increase of 40 per cent over the past 12 months.
I recently learnt of a mother who was trolling a 15-year-old girl because she saw her as competition to her own daughter. Yes, this mother intentionally cyberbullied a young girl in the hope her self-esteem would be crushed and that she would pull out of a dance competition which would make room for her rival.
What disappoints me the most is when I see trolling of innocent and vulnerable people, such as a parent who accidentally runs over and kills their child in their driveway.
They didn’t ask to be in the headlines and they would give anything to have their child back in their arms and yet when they click on an article looking for support or clarity instead they see disgusting abuse and judgment from people saying things such as such “It should have been you” or “I hope you’re never a parent again.”
Why do some people feel the need to bring someone down? What possesses someone to intentionally attempt to ruin someone’s life? The answer is that they crave attention and want a reaction, so don’t give it to them. These people don’t know you, they mean nothing to you.
The moment I stopped believing and listening to what trolls were writing to me was the moment I realised the difference between an opinion and abuse, and it no longer affects me.
Telling someone to kill themselves is not an opinion — it is abuse and it is illegal. It is illegal to use online services to menace, harass or cause offence. Remember this: “Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom to abuse.”
Are you a troll? Well if you fit the following definition, I’m afraid you are:
TROLLING: Trolling is when a user anonymously abuses or intimidates others online for fun. It’s online behaviour that provokes and is offensive.
You know the villain you watched last night on TV? The one that was made to look like they said a few nasty things? Did you write a post or comment abusing them? What gives you the right to abuse someone you haven’t met? Do you think that because they put themselves in the spotlight they should just accept it?
What if it’s a mother who just wants to follow her passion and didn’t sign up for the abuse? What if she has a daughter who reads these horrific comments about her mum online?
Ask yourself this … would you say the same to her face? Would you go up to her in the shops and say “You don’t deserve to be a mother” or “You’re a nasty bitch, I hope you get what’s coming to you.”?
This is about anyone who has a social media account and this is about our most vulnerable: OUR CHILDREN.
Try sitting down with parents who have lost their child to suicide… parents that fought to protect their child but were helpless in gaining the support they needed to protect their child because, sadly, some people don’t want to “touch” depression or suicide in fear of being held accountable or caught up in the stigma surrounding it.
This is about education — and not for children. It is the adults who need to be educated. Combating trolling and creating a safer online environment for our children rests with us — we need to be kind to one another and teach our kids to do the same.
Next Friday, March 18, is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence and I have created Troll Free Day as an initiative with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation.
As part of the campaign, RendezView will be the first opinion site in Australia to take a huge stand in the fight against trolling by disabling their comments for 24 hours.
If you are the editor of a news or gossip site reading this I urge you to please follow suit to help make an impactful stand against trolling.
On Troll Free Day the radio network I work with, Grant Broadcasters, will be airing a one hour radio special to two million people across Australia. You will hear for yourself the true effects of cyber-bullying.
So what can you do? On March 18, download the message from trollfreeday.com.au and hit pause on your social media account for 24hrs to help raise awareness for an epidemic that is out of control in Australia.
And please, think twice before you post… words can hurt.
If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Mel Greig is on Breakfast on WAVE FM Wollongong and is an Ambassador for Bully Zero Australia Foundation. Troll Free Day in on Friday March 18