How do we SE users take steps to avoid people from asking pointless questions whose answers are readily available on the internet or are too trivial? It feels quite bad to down vote or flag the very first question of several users. I feel like we are demotivating them. Any suggestions?
You can't prevent people from asking questions 1. That goes against the philosophy of this site.
Here's what the system does: Guidance. It shows you a thousand links that can help you: A how to ask page. And a bunch of sidebars with even more links about potentially similar questions:
Here's what we should do: Questions that do not show research effort and are not useful for the community deserve a downvote. Questions that fit one of the close reasons should be closed. On the other hand, we shouldn't be shy about giving good questions their upvotes and try to be as constructively supportive as possible to the new users.
I dare say that the biggest problem of Stack Overflow currently is the stream of bad quality questions; and there are filters in place to block the posting of the worst-quality questions, but computers have never been reliable in identifying good questions from bad ones and it's us humans [sic] that decide the ultimate fate of a question.
1: Actually, for people that have asked many poor questions beforehand, a question-ban prevents further questions until their existing contributions are improved. But that's after it's been revealed that without a nudge, the person can't ask further quality questions. (See What can I do when getting "We are no longer accepting questions/answers from this account"?)