Online etiquette or ‘netiquette’ – The dos and don’ts of online communication

Posted on 09 June 2017

The internet often plays a huge part in many young people’s daily activities; allowing them to communicate freely with others and share information with ease via messaging apps, social media and gaming networks.

At any one time they can be navigating a whole host of different apps, with some of the most popular ones being Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp. With so much of their lives playing out online, it is important for young people to consider how their online behaviour and choices can have an impact on themselves, and others.

Here are 7 top tips to help young people with online etiquette:

  1. Be respectful. Everyone has different feelings and opinions and it is important to respect this online. You may wish to comment on something someone has shared but always remember that behind every account is a real person. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, the internet is not the place to say it either.
  2. Be aware of how your comments might be read: Strong language, capital letters, and exclamation marks can be easily misinterpreted online. In the real world we have the addition of body language, tone of voice and facial expressions to help us understand what someone has said. We also have the opportunity to re-phrase what we say if we’re misunderstood in the offline world. When you are online, these are missing.  Think; if you were to receive this comment how would you have felt?
  3. Be careful with humour and sarcasm. It’s always great to share jokes with others and it is important to be yourself online and let your personality shine through. However,  not everything is always clear online and sometimes people might not realise you are joking. Often people  rely on emojis or text speak, eg ‘lol’, to help show they are not being serious, but it isn’t guaranteed other people will understand this. Reread what you have written and think; will everyone get the joke?
  4. Think about who can see what you have shared. Privacy settings are a simple way to restrict who can see what you are sharing, but even with them in place nothing is ever truly private online. Make sure you keep as much of your personal information off the internet as possible and never share anything inappropriate or that may get you into trouble. Remember you are only as private as your much public friend.
  5. Remember to check friend requests and group invites before accepting them. The internet is a great place to share content and chat to friends but remember to review any new requests before accepting them. Check if they are from someone you know or were expecting to receive a request from. If it isn’t from someone you know or recognise then it is ok to decline the request.
  6. Take time to have a read of the rules of conduct/ community standards. Most online forums, social networks and gaming networks have their own code of conduct or guidelines for a user’s online behaviour.  Every user has the right to have the same positive experience online. The services you’re using use these guidelines to help guide and support you so that you know what will and won’t be tolerated on their service. Before using a new account take a moment to read the guidelines, so you know the appropriate rules of posting, behaviour and what to do if you need to report something you see on this service.  
  7. Be forgiving. The online world can be very different from the offline world so try to be understanding of others when they struggle with online communication. If you see something online that you don’t think is appropriate, you can use reporting tools to flag it to the site’s safety team.  Remember that not everyone will know these rules before posting or realise that they have upset someone else.

Online networks and communities can provide a really positive experience for many young people. As a parent, you can support your child with these sites by focusing on the positive uses, showing them how to block and report and showing an interest in their online lives.

Remember that social networking sites and messaging apps require users to be 13 to use them.. You can check websites like NetAware if you are not sure about an apps age restriction.

For more information about etiquette in group chats look at our blog Group Chats - the new digital Etiquette.

For more help and guidance, have a look at our parents’ leaflets Supporting young people online and Young people and social networking sites.

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