The rules of netiquette: tips to pass on to young people
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Parent Zone looks at some expert tips to pass on to young people to help them manage their online lives positively
Blend the words internet and etiquette and you’ll find the relatively new word netiquette just rolls off the tongue. Referring to how to ‘behave’ online – following the rules of netiquette involves navigating the online world in a way that’s positive for both yourself and others you may encounter along the way.
With a lack of emotional cues, it can be challenging for young people, and adults, to interpret other people’s emotions when communicating online and misunderstandings are frequent. Add to this the fact that some people deliberately send out hateful or negative messages by ‘trolling’ others, posting abusive comments on social media or spreading fake news and propaganda.
5 expert tips to pass on to the young people you work with to help them understand the rules of netiquette:
1. Sharing isn’t always caring
Consider other people’s feelings before sharing photos of them on social media; they may not like the way they look, or come across. Also, when sharing images or posts on social media it’s a good idea to check your privacy settings and know how to change them if you don’t want your posts to be public.
‘If you get into the habit of asking your friends before you share photos they’re in, then they’ll hopefully start to do the same with you and others and you can change the unspoken rules of sharing, in your friendship group, for the better,' recommends Sophie Linington, Parent Zone Deputy CEO.
2. A lasting impression
If you’re sending messages or an email to someone about an important matter, think about how you come across online. Using words all in capital letters or writing in red and bold can seem a bit aggressive. 'Most of the time we send relaxed messages to friends and families with emojis, pictures, video and abbreviations. Impressions count for formal communications though, so take time to check spelling and punctuation,’ advises Sarah Williamson, Director of Information Systems at Sevenoaks School, Kent. 'Choose your email address wisely and remember that your emails can easily be forwarded and shared so can’t be considered completely private. The BCC field can be a really useful way to hide email addresses you should not share with other people but should otherwise be used very sparingly.’
3. Think before you post
Don’t write unkind comments on other people’s photos and posts, this includes celebrities and other famous people you don’t know.
‘If you wouldn't say it don't post it. It's incredibly easy to post in haste and forget the human being who’ll be reading your comment. Remember sarcasm and humour don’t always translate well online so try to pause before you post,' says Vicki Shotbolt, founder and CEO of Parent Zone and executive board member of UKCCIS.
4. True or False?
Before sharing information or images you come across online, take a moment to check if these are true; make sure you’re not accidentally spreading fake news. It’s easily done – indeed some national newspapers have even been caught out. In general, check if the news appears on other reputable news sites. Sometimes people spread fake news to incite hatred, or for political reasons, while others simply do it to amuse themselves.
‘Research shows that false stories spread quicker than the truth; taking some time to investigate whether the story you’re about to share is true can help stop the spread of misleading or malicious information online,’ explains Sophie Linington.
5. Put yourself first
If you find yourself spending too many hours scrolling through endless social media feeds and notice that it makes you feel a bit down or jealous, remember that many people, and companies, curate their Instagram feeds, choosing the best moments, angles, filters, captions and even digitally alter images to depict a ‘perfect’ lifestyle. ‘The internet should be a place that empowers you and makes you feel good. If it's making you feel bad go elsewhere- there’s plenty of positive content out there. You deserve better!’ says Vicki Shotbolt.