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“Don’t be a troll” meme contest for students


To teach students empathy and help them promote positive change in online behaviors, Impero is creating a contest to bring attention to the issue of internet “trolling” and highlight reasons why people shouldn’t troll. Specifically, the contest asks students to create memes about why people should not be a troll and describe the messages depicted in their memes. Impero will promote the winners’ and their memes as a way to help raise awareness about the issue and students’ efforts to combat it.

What is trolling?

Trolling” refers to the practice of antagonizing others online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant or offensive comments, or other disruptive content.  Some of the characteristics of online trolling include:

  • Deliberately making hurtful comments on social media
  • Ranting on social media
  • Offensive name-calling
  • Purposefully embarrassing someone
  • Threatening, stalking or harassing someone

Although it can be easy to be a troll because of the anonymity people have online (among other reasons), trolling can be hurtful and malicious. In a 2014 study, trolling correlated with sadism (harming others), psychopathy (personality disorders) and Machiavellianism (being emotionally deceitful).

How common is trolling?

A Pew Research Center study stated 60% of internet users said they witnessed someone being called offensive names and 27% said they had been called offensive names. In addition, 66% said they’d experienced harassment on a social networking site or app.

To help combat the prevalence of online trolls, there are some things students and adults can do to end this negative behavior and promote positive online etiquette instead. Former Forbes contributor John Rampton offered several suggestions including:

  • Establish a policy. If you are the owner of the website or social media account, establish a policy for user comments that clearly details what kind of comments are allowed.
  • Ignore the trolls. Their goal is to get attention and make you angry, frustrated or uncomfortable. When they don’t get a response, they’ll most likely go away.
  • Make light of the situation. For example, in the case of a customer complaint, engaging the unhappy customer in a lighthearted manner can be effective.
  • Unmask them. Trolls thrive on anonymity. If you can take away that power they may think twice about leaving nasty comments.
  • Create a loyal community. They will monitor themselves and can help drive away trolls.

About the contest

For the “Don’t be a Troll” meme contest, students are asked to:

  • Create a meme about why students shouldn’t troll. They can use their imaginations! It can be clever, funny, or serious (Please keep it clean).
  • Write a paragraph about the message their meme is conveying about why students shouldn’t troll (1000 characters max).
  • Submit their meme and description along with contact information and through Impero’s online form by January 31.

Impero will select 2 winners by February 11, 2020. Impero will award a $100 Amazon gift card to each winner and a $500 Amazon gift card to each winner’s school! The winners’ profiles and memes will be published on Impero’s web site and social media channels and Impero will share the memes for educators to use as part of teaching digital citizenship.

For more information about the contest or to enter, visit

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