What Is Trolling on Social Media?

Trolling, a category of cyberbullying, is the act of posting damaging or harassing comments on social media to purposefully insult or humiliate the recipient. Trolling has detrimental effects — including anxiety and depression — on victims’ mental health. Social Media Victims Law Center is committed to holding online platforms and gaming sites liable for their roles regarding trolling.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Matthew Bergman

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by

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Cyberbullying is a growing problem among children, teens, and, therefore, parents that can leave you and your child feeling isolated, hopeless, and powerless. Pew Research Center released findings of a 2022 survey, reporting that 46 percent of U.S. teens aged 13 to 17 have experienced some form of cyberbullying, which may include trolling.

Trolling describes the act of posting harassing and humiliating comments on social media platforms to elicit a negative response from one or more recipients. Usually, the person trolling is looking to disrupt a conversation — sometimes for the sheer sake of it and other times to target a particular person or group.

The red flags of social media trolling may be hard to see if you don’t know what to look for. But when you learn more about trolling, its effects, and what you can do to protect your children, you can intervene and stop the abuse.

What Is a Social Media Troll?

An social media troll is a person who shares unwelcome content within an online conversation to purposefully instigate an argument with one or more people. Sometimes the troll continues to participate in the discussion, while other times, they sit back and enjoy the chaos they’ve created.

Trolling doesn’t necessarily have to occur online, but it falls under the cyberbullying umbrella when it does. Social media trolling is problematic because bullies troll their victims by knowingly posting harmful comments that embarrass or hurt others. Internet trolls intend to insult and use derogatory language to provoke the victim into responding, leading to more trolling behavior. The troll may even follow the victim from one online community to another to harass or force them off the platform.

How can you tell if someone is trolling on social media?

If your child spends a lot of time sharing, viewing, and commenting on online content, they’re likely to encounter an internet troll at some point. There are several signs that you may be dealing with an internet troll:

  • Attacking or criticizing something that you have posted, praised, or agreed with
  • Posting personal insults meant to humiliate you in front of others in the discussion
  • Increasing verbal aggression when the victim responds
  • Making unbelievable, outrageous, and ridiculous statements designed to upset others
  • Using racist and misogynistic language or making “hate speech” statements
  • Expressing socially unacceptable viewpoints

It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the social media slang terms many use in text messages, messaging apps, chatrooms, online forums, message boards, gaming platforms, and email. Young people often use slang and emojis to hide conversations from the watchful eyes of adults, especially in cases where bullying or illegal activity is happening.

Why do people troll on social media?

People troll because they’re entertained by other people’s humiliation and discomfort. Anyone can be a troll, even people who seem nice in person. The internet is the perfect place for bullies because it allows them to remain anonymous. The lack of social media platform supervision to dictate social norms allow trolls to be unaccountable for their actions.

Examples of Trolling on Social Media

Trolling on the internet can take many forms:

  • Doxxing occurs when a troll publishes another person’s information, such as social security number, bank account, home address, or phone number, online, causing the victim to be physically or financially vulnerable. News reports of doxing tend to focus on politicians and celebrities, but doxing can happen to anyone.
  • Swatting happens when an internet troll calls emergency services and makes a false report regarding the victim, causing a SWAT team to unexpectedly show up at the victim’s door, arresting or frightening them.
  • RIP trolling occurs when trolls post hurtful and cruel messages or images to Facebook memorial pages of recently deceased individuals.

Trolls were responsible for New York Times editor Jon Weisman quitting Twitter and leaving behind 35,000 followers after he became the target of antisemitic trolling.

What social media platform sees the most trolling?

Although cyber trolling can occur anywhere you share, view, or comment on content, it’s most common in online gaming rooms. You’ll find trolls on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites, online forums, and chat rooms.

What are the negative impacts of social media trolling?

Sixty-eight percent of kids who have reported being victims of online bullying also report related mental health issues. The effects of cyberbullying and social media trolling include depression and anxiety. In addition, your child may experience psychological and physical symptoms such as sadness, anger, fear, embarrassment, headaches, stomachaches, and difficulty sleeping.

Additional important signs to look for in your child include:

  • Isolating from others
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Having trouble building connections with others
  • Developing anxiety or depression
  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Is social media trolling a crime?

Although trolling is not a crime itself, it can easily cross the line into harassment and serious threats. So how do you know when to involve law enforcement and obtain legal counsel? If you are dealing with a troll that does any of the following, call the police:

  • Threatens violence, bodily harm, or death to your child
  • Posts pornographic or sexually explicit language directed at a minor
  • Relentlessly follows a victim from forum to forum to purposefully harass them
  • Uses information from their relationship with your child in real life to target your child online
  • Posts information that could compromise your child’s safety, such as their home or school address
  • Engages in stalking behavior or hate crimes

What can you do if your child is trolled on social media?

If your child has been the victim of online trolling, take the following steps to protect them and ensure that you have evidence to support potential legal action:

  1. Compile evidence that proves that trolling or cyberbullying existed. Take a screenshot or print messages, emails, posts, and conversations to share with law enforcement.
  2. Block the offending troll on all digital platforms and devices so they can’t contact your child further.
  3. Report the conduct to the website or app, as the behavior likely violates community standards or the user agreement.
  4. Get law enforcement involved if a troll makes serious threats or engages in stalking behavior.
What to do if your child is being trolled on social media

Contact Social Media Victims Law Center To Fight Back Against Internet Trolls

Trolling continues when social media forums and gaming community websites do nothing to prevent it. Social Media Victims Law Center litigates against companies like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others to obtain victim compensation for the harm these platforms create. Civil judgments in favor of social media victims also provide further reasons for these websites and gaming sites to improve their products for safety.

If your child has had experience with an internet troll, contact the legal experts at Social Media Victims Law Center today for a free case evaluation. We will work with you to uphold social media platforms’ responsibilities to their users and condemn them for their roles in the damaging outcomes that cyber trolls and bullies cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

For individuals and children who have been

We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.

Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.

We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.

Matthew Bergman
Content Reviewed by:

Matthew P. Bergman

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