Preparing your kids for online trolls

There are a lot of things I want for my children when they get older.

I want them to be confident and resilient.

I want them to know the joy and satisfaction of being productive, contributing members of society.


I want them to find their passion, and obviously I want them to be happy.

I also know what I don’t want for them: I absolutely don’t want them to be on reality TV. Ever. Not even once. Not even as a cameo. Ever.

Because it seems to mess people up. Think about it: how many everyday people have you seen who survive a stint on a reality TV show, and their life is better afterwards?

Some of the talent-based shows like Australian Idol might be the exception, but if you look towards the cooking, dating and lifestyle programs, the list of successful participants post-show is pretty short.

And it’s largely because of trolls – anonymous online haters who get their kicks by spewing hateful comments at people they don’t know.

Last month, a British reality show contestant died following some harrowing online abuse after a stint on Love Island. Sophie Gradon was just 32-years-old. To look at her, she seemed to have it all: she was beautiful, thin, outgoing and confident. She had almost 500,000 social media followers and a boyfriend who adored her.

But she confessed in what was to become her final interview that “fans” of the show relentlessly attacked her online.

“There would be so many negative comments,” she said. “They are commenting on the way you look, the way you talk. They would come up with an opinion of you on a TV show where they’ve watched you for 45 minutes.”

Tragically her story is not unfamiliar. I won’t mention them all here, but a google search reveals dozens of similar heart-breaking situations.

I don’t know to prepare my kids for trolls. I’m hoping my aforementioned efforts to build confident, resilient, happy humans will help them to grow an armour against pathetic online bullies.

Otherwise, all I can hope for is that the world grows kinder. As one of Sophie’s co-stars said, “Isn’t it crazy how someone so stunning, so smiley and [who] appeared so happy can feel no way out? The world we live in behind social media. I urge everyone to be kind to every person they meet and speak with on social media and in person. A simple smile, a simple nice comment, can really make a difference. You really don’t know the battles they go through every single day.”

If you are in immediate danger call 000 now.  If you require advice or assistance, the following services can offer counselling and support:
Lifeline 13 11 14
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Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
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Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
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MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
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