Internet Trolling and the Dehumanization of Society

How destructive is Internet Trollling?


What is Internet Trolling?

Internet Trolling is the use of a negative persona or attitude online that is designed to provoke an emotional reaction from others.  TwitterFacebookYouTubeInstagram, email, chat rooms, and blogs are all places where internet trolling takes place. Internet Trolling ranges from clever pranks to harassment and violent threats. Internet Trolling can be significantly impactful on young people. In 2012, Amanda Todd, a teen from British Columbia, posted a YouTube video outlining how she was bullied by Internet trolls, and then she committed suicide shortly after.

Check it out: 10 Types of Internet Trolls You Can Meet Online

How Trolling is Dehumanizing?

Although often linked to genocide and war, dehumanization should not necessarily be limited to such extreme settings.  People on a daily basis attribute humanness, more or less, to other people (Lammers and Stapel, 2011). Dehumanization is attributable to an increased rift between people; a separation or disconnectedness many people blame on the increased prevalence of the Internet and social media. Dehumanization is one of several means by which inhibitions against harming others are overridden.  Conceiving of those whom we wish to harm as insignificant can make it permissible to do violence to them, and conceiving of them as dangerous renders such violence obligatory (Smith, 2016). 

Cognitive Dissonance is a theory that might play a role in how people’s behaviours change when they engage in online activities.  When people act in a certain way online (trolling for example), it is possible that they might change their beliefs offline to match and their online actions.  In other words, they are trying to remove dissonance or be consistent with their online and offline behaviours. For example, people who insult strangers constantly through social media may learn to be less sympathetic to people in real life.

The Rise of Internet Trolling

Internet trolling is changing the way in which people use the Internet. A Pew Research Center survey published two years ago found that 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds who use the Internet experienced harassment, and 26% of women that age said they’d been stalked online (Stein, 2016). A 2014 study published in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences reported that Internet users who self-identified as Internet trolls scored extremely high in dark personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism and sadism (Stein, 2016). Trolling is also causing people to disengage from social media platforms to protect themselves from Internet trolls. For example, Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was forced to leave Twitter after experiencing racist and sexist abuse from online trolls. At what point do the benefits of digital technology become outweighed by the negatives associated with online harassment?

Useful Links


Lammers, J., & Stapel, D. (2011). Power increases dehumanization. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(1), 113-126. doi:10.1177/1368430210370042

Schneier, M. (2016, April 17). A ‘Battle Cry’ On Internet Trolling. New York Times. pp. 1-9

Smith, D. L. (2016). Paradoxes of dehumanization. Social Theory and Practice, 42(2), 416

Stein, J. (2016, August 18). How Trolls are Ruining the Internet. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

What is face-to-face communication?

Technology has changed how people communicate. But has technology changed things for the better?

By Brandon Koebel

Have you noticed that millennials would rather text a friend sitting in the same room than have a face-to-face conversation? What happened to the “good old days” of talking with friends, catching up after the weekend, or simply hanging out to catch up? Technology and social media happened.

What happened to “let’s meet up for a coffee?”

The widespread adoption of technology and social media platforms has ruined face-to-face communication. No longer is it necessary to pick up the phone and talk with someone – text messages have taken the place of phone calls and Snapchat and Facebook have replaced the need to get together with friends in order to share what is happening in life. No longer is it necessary to walk across the office to ask a colleague a question. Instant messaging allows colleagues to share information, collaborate on tasks and get instant updates on important information. Our world has changed rapidly, but has it changed for the better? Perhaps the loss of face-to-face communication will have negative effects on society. Sherry Turkle explains that some of the things we now do with our devices would have been considered odd only a few years ago.

What are the consequences of changing communication methods?

Emily Drago explores how technological advancements have altered individual communication. Drago’s study found that while 62% of study participants utilized technology while in the presence of another individual (texting, talking, listening to music), and 74% of study participants agreed or strongly agreed that it bothered them when a friend or family member utilized technology while spending time together. 92% of study participants agree that technology has negatively affected face-to-face communication.

Social anxiety has been linked with increased use of online communication (Pierce, 2009). It appears that those who utilize technology as a primary means of communication experience greater discomfort when talking with others face-to-face.

While online and technology-enabled communication is valuable in the 21st-century workforce, a 2014 Skills Gap Study completed by the Four County Labour Market Planning Board revealed that employers continue to seek employees with strong verbal communication, social and interpersonal skills.

Next Steps

Debate swirls around the topic of face-to-face communication. While some (like Professor Paul Stoller) argue that technology has created an, “increasingly large group of ‘educated’ university students who appear to be ignorant of the world in which they live,” others suggest that digital communication is a necessary and critical aspect of life in the 21st century. Personally, I feel that technology is robbing our youth of the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas out loud. Face-to-face communication remains a critical skill for a wide cross-section of careers. The ability to put forth a well-supported idea and to respond to criticism by peers or colleagues cannot be replaced by an online virtual platform. We cannot let our technology-enabled society suggest that one line answers are sufficient to explain the complexities of the events which we encounter.

Other Resources

6 Reasons to Communicate Face-To-Face

Why Face-To-Face Meetings Are So Important 

Truth About Tech Use & Focus

The decreasing level of attention span in our…what was I saying?

Technology is providing amazing and entertaining new ways of learning and doing that were not available years ago. Students have access to countless sources of information, and knowledge. They also spend countless hours viewing a multitude of sites designed distract, entertain and engage their attention, often in the classroom, while they should be paying attention to the lesson. With policies in school boards that encourage students to bring their own devices (BYOD) to school, is it any wonder that teachers struggle with keeping the minds of their students on task?

Even in the “real world” adults in the worlds of business and industry easily fall prey to the countless distractions available through social networking, emails, twitter feeds, and even checking the stock market every 5 minutes.

It seems apparent that our society is changing at its core. As technology is becoming more invasive in our everyday lives, we can see the results can be disastrous at times. In one example, cities and counties around Canada are adopting laws that are geared a cutting down on distracted driving, as people are being killed or are sustaining life-altering injuries because they cannot put their cell phone down.

What is the story behind this fight for our attention? What can we do about it?

What is technology doing to our brain?

Though research in this area is taking place, it is still early in its development. In the field of neuroscience, professionals like Dr. Gary Small are studying the effects of technology on the brain. In an article, Dr.Small (2008) states that our brains are developing and learning to master the ability to process and respond to multiple digital stimuli which in turn provide instant gratification. These changes do lead to shorter attention spans and a lack of interest in other activities that provide a delayed reward like reading or even watching a longer television program or movie.

This information coincides with other research conducted by specialists such as Dr. Rich who also believe that the brains of our young people are being habituated to distraction and away from focus.

How can we help ourselves? How do we, as educators, cope with this in the classroom?

What can we do?

In some articles, researchers like Dr. Taylor (2012, December 4) suggest that it may not be a case of technology being all bad, but about which technology children use and in its frequency of use.  Others such as della Cava (2010, August 4) also take a very common sense approach in suggesting that we need to monitor ourselves and teach our students and children to set limits on use and take breaks.

The reality is that developments in technology are going to keep coming. We need not take the position as many did in the 1970s and 1980s thinking that television would destroy the brains of our youth. It did not, and technology, if used properly with self-discipline will not.

Since we have such vast tools at our disposal, I encourage educators to rise to the occasion. Put a few past teaching practices aside. Take interest in a new digital tool or two this month. Find a way to connect with your students at their level. Personally, in trying to incorporate more technology, I am seeing greater engagement and enjoyment in my students.

Help Yourself

If it is you who is struggling with finding a good balance with technology, there are a variety of online tools and resources available to you to help with distraction.  A few tools to get your started are listed below. Hang in there!

1.Focus (Mac)

2.Focusbooster (Mac/PC)

3.Freedomto (Mac/PC)

4.Dejal:Time Out (Mac)

Technology: Incredible Tool or Classroom Distraction?

Appropriate use can be a concern when students are given individual pieces of technology and set free to explore the World Wide Web. Significant trust is placed between a teacher and his/her students, to avoid behaviours such as: cyber-bullying, searching inappropriate websites, safe handling of devices, unauthorized photo taking/posting, and mis-use (texting during class etc.).

A 2015 study by the London School of Economics and Political Science compared test scores at 91 schools in England. Researchers found that test scores were higher at schools where cellphone use is prohibited. Furthermore, students who tended to have low academic grades benefited the most from a technology ban.

What are school boards doing to ensure appropriate technology use?

Some school boards are adopting a Use of Technology Policy to govern the way technology is used by Board employees and students. York Region DSB, for example, includes a variety of irresponsible and unethical uses of technology within their policy document. These include: sending, receiving, or downloading content that is illegal, using electronic devices to record other individuals without their permission, and modifying or gaining access to files, passwords or data that belongs to other individuals.

What are educators in their classroom to do when technology is being misused?

With electronic devices costing hundreds of dollars, administrators and union representatives are hesitant to allow teachers to remove a device from a student’s possession. Some teachers implement a no technology policy, whereby students are forbidden from bringing any form of technology device to class. Other teachers allow students to have devices strictly for online educational applications. Unfortunately, in most schools there does not appear to be a consistent stance on technology use.

With an exception…

Earl Grey Senior Public School in Toronto officially banned the use of cellphones in February, 2017. The school has implemented a new policy which restricts cellphone use to lunch periods and time between classes. Furthermore, students are not allowed to access social media websites or to text at any point in the school day. The ban has brought about conflicting opinions on technology use, with some parents arguing students should have access and others agreeing that technology is distracting students from their learning experience.

What is the solution?

There is no clear-cut solution. Technology is not going to disappear. Are we better to remove technology or to teach students how to use it appropriately? I believe the latter is a more appropriate solution. When students enter the workforce they will have to make the decision to put their phone away or face consequences from their employer. As educators we should be embracing the benefits of technology, and seeing technology as an incredible tool. We must teach students about appropriate use, help students to utilize their device to its full potential, and ensure our students recognize when their device is hindering their learning.





Quizlet: Do You Need It? You Decide!

Study on the go, challenge your friends and engage your students with a fun and mobile quiz application.


Quizlet is an online study tool available on any device (desktop, iOS, and Android) for students and teachers to practice learning in an engaging way. Any age group of students can use Quizlet either in class, individually or with friends (see how they started).

Key Benefits:

    • Study on the go with Quizlet.
    • Encourage students to take ownership of their learning.
    • Promote in-class engagement using Quizlet Live.

Getting Started

To appreciate the benefits of using Quizlet, you will have first to create a study set and determine how you will deliver the content to the class using the many different study mode options. Below are two videos to help you get started using Quizlet.

Teaching Ideas

Idea 1 – Visual Knowledge Practice (K-12/Higher Ed)

Placing an image in any Quizlet study mode allows the student to review a picture and define what it is they see. An example would be a series of famous paintings from a particular art period where students are required to identify characteristics of the era or movement. The quiz could prompt them to determine the name of the artist’s style, the period, the artist’s name and name of the work. Students can add levels of complexity to their quiz questions as their knowledge on the subject evolves.

Idea 2 – Audio Knowledge Practice (General/K-12)

Using Spell study mode, students can review and test their vocabulary knowledge and “type what they hear” when they hear the audio. Users can also set up Quizlet to read descriptions of an object and have the student identify what it is that they hear labeled. Listening to audio allows students with accessibility challenges to participate and for all students to strengthen their listening skills.

Idea 3 – Vocabulary Strengthening (General/K-12)

Students studying vocabulary can review definitions or attributes of a word or phrase using Quizlet Flashcards. Images can be used to support student memory through repetition delivered in a fun game (remember images are only available in the paid versions). Adjectives can be provided to help students identify the word (noun) associated with the attribute. Students can use descriptive keywords in any language and can assist in strengthening their comprehension. Teachers can create their study sets or choose to explore other educator’s quizzes. Students are also able to search existing quizzes that may support their learning or decide to set up their own.

Helpful Resources | How Can Teachers Use Quizlet
A step-by-step guide to setting up your class on Quizlet | Quizlet Review
Video: Educator’s overview of Quizlet used for a secondary English class | Game Show Classrooms
Educator’s review of Quizlet, Kahoot and Quizalize features | Quizlet Review
The pros and cons of using Quizlet


Free Version

  • Quizlet is available for free with a variety product features. Quizlet for free is available for desktop, mobile (iOS and Android) and is also available as a Google Chrome app.

Paid Version

  • Quizlet Plus is available for $19.99 USD/1 Year or 2 and 3-year discounted subscriptions. Quizlet Plus enables users to create their voice recordings, add their images, study over time with Long-Term learning and study ad-free.
  • Quizlet Teacher is available for $34.99 USD per year. School discounts are available for multiple users and larger groups. Quizlet Teacher enables teachers the ability to add their voice recordings, images and search teacher-created content. Additionally, teachers can use features for managing multiple class activity and student progress. Teachers with a Quizlet Teacher account will receive a specialized “Teacher” badge next to their user name, which means faster support when you need it.

3 Ways to Support Technology in Education (without breaking the bank)

Students today have a lot on their plates, such as school, jobs, volunteer commitments, extracurricular activities, home responsibilities and of course, their social life.

According to Statistics Canada, 85% of Canadians have access to a home computer, 87% have access to home Internet, and 86% have cellular phones.

Good, right?



Because there are still 15% of households who do not have a cell phone or a computer or an Internet connection and out of that 15%, 42% are from low-income families.

These might be your students next year; they might currently be your students, and they might not tell you about the challenges they face.

We, as educators, can’t fix Canada’s internet access problems (the CRTC is handling that).

What can educators do to help bridge the technological divide in your school and classroom?

A Tech Swap

Similar to a ski swap, communities are invited to participate in a technology sale where participants drop off gently used technology meeting a specific standard (e.g. Under five years old) and can sell it on consignment it for a reduced price or choose to donate the item. A Tech Swap provides students with smaller budgets to access modern technology for a fraction of the original price. The key point here is that the tech cannot be obsolete and has to be able to run the latest operating systems to support the applications used. An online event or a community posting that provides the details of the swap is a good way to ensure people know what schools and students need.

Crowdfunding or Cause Funding

A crowdfunding initiative using GoFundMe or Booster could be helpful for an educator looking to support their classroom technology by setting a goal and requesting donations. Social media can be leveraged to help get the message out about the funding, why the need, and who is initiating the campaign. It is important to outline the funds are being raised to support technology inclusion in the classroom. Bonus points if you can get your local news publications and businesses to help promote it.

Booster allows users to create and sell t-shirts for donations. Students can be involved in the entire campaign process where they are responsible for concept development and design of the t-shirts.

In the U.S. there is a site called, which is used by educators to set up projects for their classrooms to receive financial support. enables individuals to donate to the programs of their choice in any denomination, which enables contributing to a local community cause very simple.

Invest in the Students

In a report conducted by Media Insights, Canadian educators identified “lack of technical support and maintaining software and hardware” as being the number one concern when using technology in their classrooms (Johnson, 2016). As part of the commitment to technology in education, it could be both constructive and inclusive to provide students the opportunity to form a “Tech Support” club, where teams of students can create a group and provide IT support to faculty and staff during scheduled extracurricular programming. Using the student talent pool is a win-win for both participants and school staff. Placing some ownership on the students to contribute to the technology support requirements can help alleviate some of the frustrations surrounding the integration of technology into the curriculum.

I would love to hear how your schools have overcome financial barriers to creating inclusiveness in your classrooms when it comes to technology-supported learning.

Please share in the comments below.


Dobby, C. (2016). CRTC rules high-speed Internet a basic service, sets targets. The Globe and Mail.

Dwelling characteristics and household equipment, by province (Canada). (2015).

Johnson, M. (2016). Connected to Learn: Teachers’ Experiences with Networked Technologies in the Classroom | MediaSmarts.

The Daily — Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2012. (2013).

3 Tips for Combatting Cyberbullying Through Empathy


The cyberbully is one who can attack anywhere, anytime and with complete anonymity. These bullies are not restricted to school playgrounds or back allies. One can be attacked anywhere they access their technology, even in the safety of their own home. Because the perpetrators of cyberbullying can hide behind the mask of technology, it can be difficult to provide justice and even reconciliation. How can we, as educators in our society, deal with this problem? Some suggest to teach empathy.

Empathy Is Tough to Teach But is One of The Most Important Life Lessons

Empathy is the process of identifying with another person, attempting to understand their perspective and relate to it. As part helping to eliminate hate, and working toward a more inclusive society, empathy is a must.  Is it possible to use the same technology used for hurt to also heal? With cyberbullying being such a big problem, can we teach empathy effectively to help diffuse and limit this destructive behavior? Though it is hard to teach how can we foster empathy online?

Studies have been undertaken to discover and test ways to lower the impact of cyberbullying and to encourage positive relationships through teaching empathy. The following sections sugges a beginning: 3 ways that educators can affect positive changes in cyber-relationships.

1. Intervention Over the Long Haul

Not surprisingly, the most important step in combatting cyberbullying is for bystanders (teachers, family members or friends) to intervene. In a study by Machackova and Pfetch (2016), it was discovered that providing empathy to the victims of cyberbullying had a positive result.  As educators, we can encourage our students to build healthy relationships and to support each other.

Teachers can find use lessons and units of study that help to foster positive online relationships and limit cyberbullying on sites like

Schultze-Krumbholz & Scheithauer (2009) found that short term intervention through lessons in class tend not to last. The results of their study showed that longer term intervention was the only intervention condition showing significant positive outcomes regarding cyberbullying perpetration. (p.153) Thus, teachers may find better outcomes through longer term planning of units that address cyberbullying and building empathy.

2. Modelling

It is not enough to teach students what empathy looks like, or how to provide it, teachers must demonstrate it and engage in it themselves. In an article about teaching in online environments, Fuller (2012) states that having an empathetic environment for learners requires instructors to practice it themselves. This will look different, depending on the level of education. An example in online environments might be to make frequent contact with students through selective discussion board postings or regular email contact. The key is to connect regularly and frequently, especially early on to build trust. (p. 43)

3. Exploring Empathy Through Gaming

Role playing and the use of drama have been explored to foster understanding through multiple perspectives. Online gaming can be used to provide students with fun ways to engage in real world issues of poverty, globalization, and conflict through playing different roles within the environments such as Serious Games. Other online games like thomaswasalone  can help students explore feelings of isolation and problem solve to find solutions for it in a virtual setting. Other games presented on sites like provide games and videos that are geared to various age groups, presenting issues related to bullying and cyberbullying that encourage greater thought about others and attempting to understand differing views.

As can be seen, there are strategies and tools that educators can use to help their students combat this issue. Being prepared and acting pre-emptively is important. Readers are welcome to share other resources and ideas as well. Let’s do something about it together.

Another video to ponder…

The Importance of Empathy in Everyday Life


Fuller, R. G. (2012). Building empathy in online courses: Effective practical approaches. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education (IJICTE), 8(4), 38-48. doi:10.4018/jicte.2012100104

Gentès, A., & Cambone, M. (2013). Designing empathy: The role of a “control room” in an e‐learning environment. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 10(1), 31–48. doi:10.1108/17415651311326437

Machackova, H., & Pfetsch, J. (2016). Bystanders’ responses to offline bullying and cyberbullying: The role of empathy and normative beliefs about aggression. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 57(2), 169-176. doi:10.1111/sjop.12277

Mindshift. (2017, February 8). Empathy is tough to teach but is one of life’s most important lessons [web log post]. Retrieved from

Schultze‐Krumbholz, A., Schultze, M., Zagorscak, P., Wölfer, R., & Scheithauer, H. (2016). Feeling cybervictims’ pain—The effect of empathy training on cyberbullying. Aggressive Behavior, 42(2), 147-156. doi:10.1002/ab.21613