Thursday 20 April 2017

The Young Person’s Guide To The Modern World blog tour : Trolling and online bullying

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in the blog tour for The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World and shared a guest post, by Richard Daniel Curtis, author of the book and The Kid Calmer, entitled How to keep your children safe without appearing overprotective. Parents aren't the only ones who need a helping hand to find their way in the modern world though, and there is a partner book for young people.

Richard explains : "Finding your way in the 21st Century is not an easy ride. There are so many things out there that your parents never had to deal with, so it’s hard to find someone to understand. There are pressures put on you from your parents, from school, from your friends and it can feel overwhelming and frustrating.

Technology is fantastic, but every so often you end up having to unpick a mess on social media. Sometimes it is easier to retreat to your room and escape the world, but even then you don’t get left alone.

Life in the modern world is great when it’s all going well, but at the same time it is a bit scary and you wish you knew what to do about some of the concerns you have.

That’s why I wrote The Young Person’s Guide for the Modern World. I originally wrote a book just for parents, but then I realised that it would be far better to talk to you directly. So I rewrote my book for you.

I start by explaining to you the changes that are happening in your brain as you approach adulthood and why these are important to helping you find your own identity. Most of the book is then devoted to going through the different aspects of life, from gender identity and sexuality, to gangs, to drugs, to social media and technology. I give you information on the risks related to each to help you to make easier decisions. Finally I talk to you about the world that you will see in the next 20-30 years, getting you to think about the ways you can prepare for the technology that’s just around the corner."

 Richard has kindly penned a second guest post for Madhouse Family Reviews, aimed at young people and dealing with the thorny topic of trolling and online bullying. Sadly, this is something that I have experienced personally, both in my job as a teacher where "facebook fights" often carry on in the classroom, and also as a mum. My eldest daughter had a run-in with some online bullies but luckily we nipped it in the bud - the most important thing is definitely being there for moral support, rather than letting your tween or teen bottle it up and try to deal with it alone. Here's Richard's advice.

Trolling and online bullying

The internet has changed the world we live in, with just a few clicks you are able to be in communication with people around the globe. However, with that comes social responsibility. Unfortunately, that is very easily more often said than done, people abuse the anonymity of the internet and there are daily cases of online bullying and trolling happening in our social circles.

One of the biggest things that the current age has done is move social activities online. This means that many of the friendship groups and social engagements that were experienced in the playground or out playing now take place online. Unfortunately, this also includes bullying, not just the seemingly harmless name calling that many people did as youngsters; this can be serious and prolonged from an individual or a group. Trolling, specifically Internet trolling, is the practice of posting comments or remarks that are offensive, aggressive or disruptive to the conversation.

The reason is threefold - the Internet allows people to be anonymous, the Internet puts words into print or pictures, the Internet removes inhibitions.

Being anonymous or taking over someone’s identity allows people to hide behind a mask and intimidate or bully online. As many sign-up processes online are automated, it is very easy to either create fraudulent or fake accounts. To create a fraudulent email account only takes a few personal details about the person, such as their gender and where they live. Other things like date of birth, pet’s name and other personal data can often be stolen from social media, such as someone’s (or their relative’s) Facebook page. Once they have these details they are able to take over other social media accounts, using the personal information to reset the password and change the email address on the account. It is easy to set up fake accounts, by again beginning with an email address, which only requires a phone number for verification. Again, from here it is easy to then set up fake profiles on social media.

Even without anonymity people will often post or make unkind comments on social media. Celebrities and people in the spotlight are often the focus for Internet trolling, however with teens the target can often be other young people. Peer pressure and gang culture may amplify this, with people being subjected to comments and ridicule from multiple others. Even innocuous comments, which if said as part of a conversation would be let go, are there for our minds to keep revisiting.

The Internet allows people’s inhibitions to be removed; very often people will comment on posts or forums with seemingly little or no regard for the impact. They don’t see the reaction of the person receiving the message and often don’t know them personally, so don’t need to moderate themselves. The brain tricks them into thinking there will be no effect, because it’s not the same as saying it to someone’s face, or that it’s inconsequential. The little thoughts that everyone has inside their minds can be posted online quicker than the other voices in their heads react telling them to stop.

What are the risks?

It’s very easy to slip into trolling. It’s different to bullying, which tends to be a more directed attack on an individual on multiple occasions. It is then easy to move from making incongruent comments that go against a post or conversation (Internet trolling) to it becoming a campaign or regular occurrence (bullying). To be a victim of bullying is a matter of perception; if the individual is secure in their own self-identity and resilient enough to walk away and not be affected by the campaign, even if by a group, then they are unlikely to be a victim of bullying. However, if someone feels insecure, depressed or anxious then they may more likely focus on the comments or take them to heart. This can lead to further insecurity, depression, paranoia or vulnerability.

Unlike in-person bullying and intimidation, which can often be left behind by walking away, social media reminds us of its presence. Social media will inform users they have a new comment, notify them when they log in. In the case of someone who is being bullied or feels picked on by the comments or replies, then this adds a level of fear and dread to the receiving of notifications.
The hormones released in the brain cause a fight, flight, freeze response in the body and also secrete pheromones in the sweat, causing the so-called smell of fear. The same process that helps us to love now links emotional pain to an experience. This will cause a sense of dread whenever notifications are received, but also the dopamine boost that makes it almost irresistible to not read it.


Walk away from people who upset you, do the same online.
Stop and think before posting comments, photos or videos.
Talk to trusted adult for advice about social difficulties if you need to, there will be times your brain lets you down and makes it hard for you to problem solve.


Troll, it’s very easy to do and hard to retract.


Want your parent to understand all of these pressures on you? Why not get them to buy The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World.

About Richard Daniel Curtis

Based in Southampton with his partner and their young son, Richard Daniel Curtis is an internationally renowned behaviour expert and futurist passionate about helping people understand mindset and psychology. A former teacher, and mental health support worker, Richard is known for his impact with turning round some of the most extreme behaviours and is consulted about adults and children around the globe, even having two assessments named after him. He has founded The Root of It -an organisation of qualified professionals available to support schools and individuals with behavioural difficulties- for which he was awarded the Gold Scoot Headline Award in 2015 and Best New Business in 2014. Most recently he launched The Mentoring School to train the psychology related to mentoring people of all ages. For his work and expertise he has been interviewed for the BBC,ITV and Sky News TV and various international print media and radio. His previous titles include: 101 Tips for Parents, 101 More Tips for Parents and 101 Behaviour Tips for Parents (2014) and Gratitude at Home (2016).

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