Computer etiquette, or "netiquette," refers to the manners used when using a computer. Having respectful online behavior helps users of all ages cut down on arguments and limits bullying behavior. Following computer etiquette rules also helps kids stay safe on the Internet, helps them keep their friends and generally helps them avoid trouble in the computer-literate community. The habits kids learn for using the computer can help them off-line, too.
Real People Use Computers
Writers from Cybersmart, an educational company that specializes in computer learning, remind people to remember that a real person is on the other end of the message. Teach your child that words have the power to make that person feel good about themselves or to make them sad and unhappy. Tell him that he should treat his online buddies even nicer than he would in person, because they can't hear the vocal inflections that would tell them if he is making a joke or just being dramatic. Teach your child to use emoticons to let friends know when something is supposed to be funny.
The Internet is a Big Mall
The Internet is a public place. Tell your child that it is a good idea not to do or say anything that he wouldn't do or say in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, in front of you, your spouse, or the most conservative elderly relative you know, according to the website Kids and Media. Explain that messages posted on the Internet are stored, and words that only took a minute to write could be around years from now. They might even get him in trouble with a future boss he won't meet until years after he has forgotten about typing them.
Be Consistent, But Safe
For safety, help your child develop a handle or Internet name that he can use online instead of giving out his real name. If he uses the same Internet name all the time, his online friends will recognize his identity. At the same time, he should never give out his real name to anyone. Firmly explain that you will help with anything that needs a real identification, such as a subscription to a game or web page. Woodlands Junior School in Kent, England, has posted a Safety on the Internet guide that suggests children should always ask parents before opening attachments to email, especially if the child don't know the person sending it. By the same token, he should not forward email he has received from friends and family without permission from the sender and from his parents.
Know Your Audience
According to an article on the Woodlands Junior School website, teach your child to double-check before sending an email or comment. Ask your child to imagine what would happen if he sent a note, intended for one of his school friends, to his grandmother. Reassure your child that you understand that even though he knows you should be kind on the Internet, not everyone is careful to send kind words. Tell him that if he receives a message that makes him unhappy or frightened, leave the chat or program right away. He should then tell someone, such as a teacher or parent, what it was that upset him.